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The Opera | Evening 24/12- Xmas 1677


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There were two entrances to the Dorset Garden Theatre. The first was a deep, stately portico set upon Salisbury Court; the second a set of public stairs to the Thames for the convenience of those patrons who might come by water, thus avoiding the disreputable neighbourhood that surrounded any theatre and was, in this case, named Whitefriars.


Both entrances were set to welcome noble visitors tonight; doorways hung with decorative brass lanterns, whose cheerful light set the snow on either side of the carefully swept paths to glow; doormen in Buckingham's bright livery stood to attention, ready to check invitations and hold open doors (and perhaps repel any potential gate-crashers). The facade of the theatre was quite impressive of its own account, and there had seemed little point in adding anything to make it seem the grander.


The inside of the theatre was something else entirely. Toward the entrance there was very little decoration to speak of, aside from the building's already fine plasterwork molding and gilt... but as the eye travelled toward the stage, the space was transformed by degrees. A number of sheer, gauzy curtains adorned with appliqued leaves and branches hung about the sides of the theatre and around the stage, the effect multiplying one atop the other; artful concoctions of twine, fabric and woven wicker were set about and seemed almost like real trees, growing denser around the prominent forestage; at the ceiling, the glass panes of large lanterns had been painted like branches and foliage, so the light seemed to filter through a canopy of leaves. The overall effect was as if one looked upon a shady grove of trees in summer, rather than a stage.


A full orchestra was seated in the pit, to the left of the forestage, and behind that, the stage proper - almost double the width of the forestage and equipped with that thoroughly modern phenomenon of sliding screens to depict scenery, which ran along grooves set into the stage floor. Currently, this was concealed by a heavy green curtain, which would rise when the performance began.


The interior of the place was quite warm; fires had been stoked in the grates all day to ensure it. Braziers hung at intervals, giving off heat and fragrant smoke. At the entrance, there were several liveried servants poised to show the guests to their seats, and a number of orange-girls were strategically placed to serve refreshments to any who might want them.

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There was something of a queue of carriages to get up to the new Dorset Theater. While it might be the work of the former and current Earl of Dorset and the Duke of York, it was the King who had commissioned the request for the evening. In his typical majestic flare, Charles Rex had declared Middlesex (of then) provide the venue. Ironically, the venue of his brother.


While the common rabble was excluded, there were liveried servants to help check that no undesireables were sneaking in, but that did not seem to be the problem. Two things were quite the premium at court: the King and entertainment. This promised to be both, right along with sex appeal if the whispers of the young Lady Toledo were true. A large audience was nearly guaranteed!


There was already activity inside, courtiers marveling at the inside. Voices already filled the entryway, and ladies were wearing pretty furs on their way in.


On the side of the Watergate, still others were arriving, perhaps with a bit more ease, although there was quite a wait to disembark and enter.

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Lieutenant Turnbull had arrived some hours earlier, as part of the dispatch of Lifeguards to check the nooks and crevices of the Dorset Theater to oust any lingering riff raff.


The assortment of rooms that spilled out the back of the theatre was a rabbit warren of hiding places. Turnbull himself routed out no less than three youngsters hiding away under the stairs to the woodwork room, and listened to their youthful confessions that they had hopes to watch the show. Naturally he discharged them all out the back door, with a threat to stay out, or he'd take the matter higher, ie, he'd tell their mothers!


Cleared. The building then underwent yet another sweep. Let no man say the Lifeguards of London were anything but diligent.


Yet as time rolled around, he was assigned to Watergate duty. It was perhaps the coldest duty on offer, the wind swept in off the Thames unimpeded, but he accepted it on the chin, after all he was the new guy. He could not expect to be assigned to a royal box seat straight, when he was barely off the off the boat. He and Junior officer Winston made their way down the steps, before taking their places either side and looking stoically into the distance.


[stationed at the Watergate]


Darkness had crept in, but he remained attentive to any possible threat from yonder. He stood focused, his buttons gleaming in the torchlight, and ignoring his nose which was freezing. Meanwhile prettily laced ladies and dandied noblemen dismounted their boats, cheerfully walking by, their laughter and cheer lifting into the night air.

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She had thought to have come by coach but then plans had been changed as it was deemed not safe for the Ladies that would make up the party. With no thought given to any impediments of river travel plus the actual winter weather Ellen had nevertheless restrained from comment to her brother-in-law Lord Melville as he had mad3 the changes. Men at times seen impervious to common logic.


Wrapped in black sable that had been brought from the Russia's by ship and then into the inventory of her father where he had made it an early New Year's gift its softness and warmth did much to keep of the cold. The dark was a good contrast to the white of her complexion and the honey-blondness of her hair and in fact suited her excellently well.


Arriving at the stairs after the boatman had had some difficulty made her breath a sigh of relief glad that they had not all ended up in the water there like to freeze to death. Her gaze took in the crowed space taking note some Lifeguards placed at intervals and hoped that nothing would disrupt the Opera.


Not really attuned to such a thing yet out of curiosity as she had read the detail she wanted to see her once nemesis who was to play a part. Sophia, or ratherLady Toledo as she now was styled, was to yet again to offer up her 'talent' and perform for the Public to admire and fawn over no doubt.


She could not help the sudden smile at her thoughts and so the hands that saw her safely ashore and then caught up in the general movement which took her away from her party and as she tried to turn back was pushed into one of those same Lifeguards


Her gloved hands took hold of the strong arms and she held firm her eyes growing a bit wider and the sudden color that tinges her cheeks makes her, in the torchlight, pretty. A small laugh escaped and then she looked up prepared to thank her 'anchor' the amusement clear in her countenance.

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There was quite the cue of small craft, taking turns to berth to allow their precious cargo to alight, before moving away from the dock. Some weighed anchor to await the opera's end, some returned up or down the river. Turnbull supposed those ones would return later at a prearranged time.


He shifted the position of his hand on sword hilt, drew a breath, and continued his vigilant watch.


That was not to say that he did not 'check out' the arrivals. So many pretties, none of whom he knew their names, but all of whom he assumed were important. Likely they were nieces of Dukes, daughters of Earls, cousins of Kings. Each and every one, to his eyes, were dressed with a nations wealth. He'd never seen such a display of rubies, sapphires and emeralds, his mind wrestled with the opulence of it, could they actually be paste? Ha but if they are paste, they probably have the true version at home in their safe! This was very different dress-code than the open shirted dross of sailors and sensibly booted navy men 'board ship, where the only sparkle was a bit of silver and brass. Even the men here, wore gemstones, rings glittering, and cravat pins stones as large as pennies. Ah, if the pirates of the carib. could see this parade now they would pant.


Another boat, another walking jewelry box debarked, and might have moved past. But a toe or heel was caught, and she was pitched. With instinctive speed Turnbull reached to catch - and he did. "Are you quite alright milady?" he asked in a voice of concern. Having bent and reached to 'save' her, he face was impossibly close to her own right then, that he discovered himself gazing into singularly lovely, if startled, eyes.

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HIs voice was pleasant to her ears and his grasp firm and as she gazed up into eyes very near her own in color and at the closeness of their bodies her cheeks pinked but he was unlike to notice yet why did her heart of a sudden seem to skip a beat .....


"Indeed Sir I am well enough." She whispered her breath soft against his face as she stared at him then gave another small chuckle and sought to right herself.


"It was the crowd I fear and so I am separated from my Company yet none the worse thanks to You Lieutenant. No harm done to You I hope?"


She asked in some concern as her gaze took him in fully. Taller than most men she guessed and she liked that he was clean shaven as well and they fact that he returned her look without any attempts to 'charm'.


The past year had seen her change in many ways and it was still a surprise to look into her glass and see the softness that had unexpectedly settled about her countenance and how she resembled her late Mother now - she would never achieve Ophelia's Beauty naturally - but that did not matter any longer to her.


Her eyes were drawn back to his and as she stood there still somewhat within his embrace, her gloved hands flat against his chest, where she could feel the thump thump of his heart beneath his jacket.


"My name is Ellen."

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His eyes of concern relaxed into a smile with her chuckle and advise that she was unscathed. "That is good news." He - suddenly aware he was still holding her (warming hands) let loose and moved to upright position, "tricky steps these, uneven, yours is not the first heel to be caught. Lady Ellen, Lieutenant Turnbull, at your service." he gave a small bow and a crooked smile.


But she was separated from her group apparently, so the tall lifeguard looked off over her head, perhaps to see some group also looking about? "Could you provide a description?" he asked, while making a gesture that she might move off to the side of the step. Meanwhile so many others streamed on past, gemstones and sequins glittering in the torchlight.

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my name is Ellen. God's Teeth what are you about


Spoke the little voice at the back of her thoughts as she gave herself a firm mental shake


"Might I remain here for some small time?"


She asked not correcting his assumption in regards to his address of her. No point really as they were unlike to ever meet again.


"Unless by doing so I break some Rule? Appearances, well my brother-in-law, Lord Melville, is near to your height and dark of hair - perhaps he is known to you? At present he is with Lord Langdon."

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At the street entrance


One slender gloved hand tapped impatiently on the window as Juliana of Hesse-Eschwege's carriage inched slowly toward the entrance to the theatre. One by one, the coaches in front of her discharged their finely dressed passengers while the ones following waited their turn. If she had known there was going to be such a crowd, she would have come a bit earlier, but she had not been at court long enough to know its ways. In fact, she had only arrived yesterday and the majority of her time had been spent supervising the servants while they unpacked her things and wandering aimlessly around her rented residence. The journey from Sweden had been long and she had been happy to leave the carriage that had become her prison.


And yet here she was in a carriage again, impatiently waiting to leave it. Juliana was debuting at the English court this evening, and she looked forward to meeting people and being seen. For so long, she had been stuck on a country estate in Sweden after the scandal that had ruined her chances of becoming that country's Queen. Now, thanks to her own machinations, she had been exiled again, but this time far away from the land that had been her home since childhood. It was wonderful to be back in society again, and the self-proclaimed Princess planned to make the most of her time here.


The carriage stopped and the door opened. With the coachman's assistance, Juliana stepped out, swathed in expensive furs that concealed her pale blue brocade gown and the diamonds she wore around her neck. Her platinum blonde hair was arranged in a cascade of curls which had been adorned with a circlet of diamonds. She was tall and beautiful, the kind of woman who always stood out from the crowd.


Following the other courtiers, she entered the theatre, her regal bearing apparent in the elegant way she walked. Lingering in the entryway, she admired the décor while looking around for somebody interesting to discreetly bump into. Or perhaps a curious gentleman or lady would notice that she was deplorably alone and discreetly bump into her.

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There were a thousand things that Heather could have done that were wiser than this moment in time, yet she arrived at the Watergate with all the fanfare that was entailed with her golden rigged boat. Briefly the Countess halted as she stepped from the vehicle bobbing up and down, throwing up a look a head, her chin firm. . Dorset Theatre, the enemy.. Anger and Irony fought for a moment but didn't surface on her face that merely showed a small ironic smile as she clutched her small reticule. None could know it was filled with rotten tomatoes.


The cloth of her evening gown was a deep sapphire, with her neckline being even deeper. Heather's goldenred curls were styled in the latest fashion, dashing about her shoulders in way to call attention to her fine porcelein skin, and never mind the dusting of those ginger freckles. She took not one but two deep breaths, her breasts being at display, heaving as they did.


York could have averted this danger to his theatre. He could have communicated wit her beforehand, but he had avoided a fight by not mentioning it, so much like the Stuart boys.


Perhaps her return to the city was unexpected, Heather didn't know, nor did she care. She just had a shimmering resentment, which if she was honest was fuelled by the fact York had not yet acknowledged her return all day, despite some humilating urgent messages. Not one message, not the one. She thought herself beloved, but what did she have to show for it? That he sought to endorse an endeavour of her enemy, he ex husband no less, was most painful. Surely, the strategic soldier hadn't anticipate her to remain silent on the matter? How did he define loyalty?


Heather's temper bristled, leaving her to be impulsive as she stepped forward to inspect this competitor Theatre. She was prepared to hate it, on principle. Who could out do Drury Lane?

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But as much as he looked he safe no possible (Father, Brother, Mother, Sister?) searching frantically in return, it was more as if the lady had arrived all alone. Which was possible in itself, though he could not fathom any reason she might lie. Unless this was part of some nefarious plot of the very kind he was upon vigilant look out for? Was she serving as a distraction, while some sinister sneaked past?


Turner looked back to the groups of courtiers filing on past up the steps, and rued that he was not familiar with faces yet. To all appearances nothing seemed out of place.


Looking back at the young woman, she described a brother in law who was part of her contingent. "I see no such man in the area." he advised soberly, while maintaining alertness to the locale. He was on duty. "Ah." she then mentioned a name he did know at last. Langdon. But she said he was with Melville. What sort of officer would Turner be if he did not know where the Major currently was. So it was he saw she lied. His brow furrowed.


"You shall be far warmer inside Lady Ellen, if you wait one moment I'dll have my man escort you." he moved apart to Trooper Winston, and following a hushed conversation the otehr then returned with Ambrose.


"If you would come with me." Trooper Winston said, intent to take her to an office-come-improvised-holding room inside. While politely said, it was not an invitation to be refused.


"When Major Langdon arrives, or Lord Melville, I shall advise him of you immediately. This if for your own safety Marm." Overly diligent perhaps, Lieutenant Turnbull could not be said to be a man of inaction at least, some might even say he was a man after Whithurst's 'arrest now ask questions later' heart.

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The fact that he could not at once see her brother-in-law made did not overly distress Ellen yet she did feel compelled to correct him


"No. I mean he is serving with Lord Langdon not actually with him now. Well, tis possible I suppose, for there are many about. Well no actually I do not prefer to wait inside Lieutenant for then I shall never find anyone!"


It appeared her words made no difference for he left her momentarily then returned with another solider who spoke of taking her off to yet some other place for her own good. And then the speech that finally caused her to become agitated.


"I shall do no such thing. And remove your arm if you please." She gave the other solider a warning her eyes narrowing. "And just what are you implying - that I must be removed to some place away from this? This back to the Lieutenant.


"Think you I am some dangerous person - well keep this up and I shall be only to happy to oblige - you Sir are no Gentleman."


It was the only insult that came to mind.


But where had Duncan and the rest disappeared to? She could not have been that far apart from them initially and she had but to follow the crowd that surged past to gain admittance to the Theatre anyway.


She was not some doxy from Cheapside come to see and steal!


Her eyes quickly scanned those passing to and fro in the hopes a face might be recognized by her or her own person by another. Funny how the name of Christopher suddenly crept in as if he might suddenly appear at her side ......

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Some manner of misunderstanding, although he had never heard of a Lifeguard named Melville, she insisted there was. The fact still remained however, that the family member she claimed to be seperated from, was plainly not here at all. The man before her paused, brows knitted.


“If this is the case, then I am sure he would appreciate your being escorted in from the freezing night air. And you will appreciate my need to attend to my duty. Why not a year ago there was an attack on the King during the festive season, the first to the thrid troops are upon high alert. I cannot neglect my post to entertain your company while you wait, however pleasant it might be, however flattered I might be that you would risk frost bite to linger here with me. I assure you that the moment I see someone hunting for you I shall direct them to your whereabouts. You shall find the foyer comfortable, with many an ‘at ease’ person wth which to converse.”


As he spoke, he remained alert, eyes searching into the darkness beyong the torchlit stair. Posted as one of the guards on the watergate, he’d not be leaving his post, though he’d be able to relax some once the Opera begun.

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She could hardly make a Public Display after all.


He argument made sense and she understood his thinking at last - thanks in part to his replay of things Past.


"Yes. I can see now where your own thoughts have taken you. The fault is mine and so I shall allow your fellow Solider to see me escorted there."


"I hope you will forgive my display of 'temper' and should we meet again I will hope that we might be better introduced."


Her smile when it came was soft and it brought the one dimple in her left cheek into view but she did not offer him her hand as she gathered up a handful of her skirt and made ready to depart.


What had started out had not gone in the direction she'd tried for - just another sign that she was indeed 'skill less' when it came to the other sex. And now some embarrassment grew as she imagined what he must be thinking and would no doubt be right glad to be rid of her!

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An expression that contained relief was hers at that moment. "Thank you, Lady Ellen, your empathy with my predicament, and respect of my position is greatly appreciated. I shall admit to you, that I am new. Not yet in receipt of my first pay packet in fact. I am naturally desirous to impress those who rank over me, and would do so by being utterly dependable. My Father always said it was dependability that made a man invaluable." he gave a sharp nod, almost a salute, to the statement.


He was not the sharpest tack when it came to women. But even he was able to tell she became upset now, her initial anger was replaced by glassy-eyed-ness.


"Err... once I am off duty." he frowned, "ah, that is, if you still have not found your family. Then, I would be honored to escort you safely back home?" he looked around him again, keenly aware that he had a duty to perform right now, while equally rueful that he'd been a proper buffoon and made the pretty lady cry.


His eyes then returned to her, eyes with a dark intensity, hoping she was cheered, while also hoping it was all settled quick. At any moment a commanding officer might arrive, and if he was caught out chattering to guests instead of working, he'd be in deep shit.

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The sudden wetness in her eyes made her blink as she half turned not thinking him to offer anything further. His words came none the less and so stilled her progress.


It would seem that he was appreciative of the fact she had made no further demonstrations and would now go along quietly with his fellow Solider. Yet his remark to his newness made her chuckle - so unexpected was it.


'I beg your pardon. Please do not think I take amusement from that statement twas just not what I expected to hear. I think you are well derserv'd of a goodly amount then Lieutenant and indeed to have such a Quality as that makes for a Fine Character."


She was sincere for it WAS an admirable trait to have.


His offer to see her returned safe was also nicely made.


"How very kind and so I shall accept - providing I am not re-acquainted with my Party by the end of this event. Yet now I feel I must, in some form, offer to repay your kindness with one of my own."


"I shall not detain you but a moment longer for I know that you are on Duty - but I should like it if you would allow me to be a 'Guide' of sorts? You have come when a thing not oft is occurring - a Christmas Court in London - with much to see. If you ask for Doolittle House then I am easily found. In St James Square."


Her smile was a bit of warmth on the cold night air and she knew that it was all for nothing as the likelihood of him ever turning up there was almost laughable. Just words bandied about as was expected.


That she was too hard on herself was a truth she had yet to fully overcome.

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To add to his confusion of the mysterious 'fairer sex' (particularly that of the precious noble blooded kind) the brink-of-tears girl then chuckled. ?! At least she tired to explain to this confused Lifeguard. It sort of made sense, in a complicated way, it was far simpler for Turnbull to not try understand but simply accept her cheer as cheer. "Heh heh..." he smiled, eyes then darting to the side ostensibly 'working', then looked back to her again.


Female dramatics had been averted. Well done old man, he patted himself on the back.


The little lady accepted his offer, even seemed eager of it, in fact she seemed encouraged, and burst into the offer of a virtual tour of current events. He knew he hardly deserved the offer. Now Ambrose was aware of (had benefited from) the allure of a uniform upon dockside and tavern girls, but was now prompted to wonder if the Mesmery entranced those of higher walks also?


"Doolittle House. St James Square." he gave a nod. She had assured he knew her address, in case she discovered her family for the trip back home (which was most probable, and proper, if she were a maid) "Har har, you know how to excite a humble officer! Now be inside, keep yourself warm..." His eyes glinted as he packed her off with a grin.


A sturdy expression was then pasted to his face as he resumed his watch, mind distracted though as he wondered about highborn ladies. A chap knew what they were paying for a whore, but what was the fee exacted from one of these high born ladies? Prancing about in silks, flaunting themselves like that, baiting, it was plainly a higher stakes game they played. Was theirs a game he could afford... a thin smile grew upon the officers lips.


The devil-may-care thoughts served as a good distraction from the creeping shill that permeated, during this otherwise uneventful night-watch.

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Basildon Carriage...


Had her cousin noted Nicolette's change of heart about the Opera? She had acted rather duty bound to attending it right up to an hour ago, when some manner of change of heart had taken place... and by the time they picked up the Duke and Duchess of Seymour, the only word to describe her mood was effervescent; bubbly and spilling all over the place.


"This is the first Opera in England ever," she crooned to cousins, sipping on her glass of wine and peeking out the window of the carriage, "it is the stuff of legend I am sure, probably each of our names shall be entered into some documentation on such things." Although the lofty caliber of her company rather outshone her (currently) she could hope couldn't she?


With intent to make an impression that first event of the season, she wore a rather dazzling dress newly arrived from France. The gown was a powder blue gauze confection, light and billowy atop underskirts and bodice of a vibrant fleshy shade of peach. The gauze was peppered with peach and blue glass beads that sparkled as they caught the light. Her hair was styled in a very chic fashion in a series of braids around a gleaming bun, fastened there by a trailing peach ribbon that tickled pleasantly at the nape of her neck. About her wrist was another pair of ribbons, slung from which was her fan and a pair of opera glasses (glasses courtesy of the infinitely prepared wardrobe of Lisa Killington).


While it was plain she'd gone to lengths with her wardrobe, that was not to say that this Frenchwoman intended to rely upon a pretty dress to set herself apart from the also-rans. There was a King to entice, and much competition, aside from the distraction to the royal eyes of the Opera itself.


With a knowing look to Louis she raised her glass in a toast amidst the foursome, "To Us."




Once out of the carriage, the men needed to wait patiently a moment as the ladies performed their pre-requisite re-plumping of crushed skirts. It was only then that it dawned on Nicolette (silly girl) that she might have the boon of linking arm through Louis' to enter the event (rather than her usual entrance straggling along behind her Cousins).


With a broad smile she approached Lord Basildon.

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Blue was the color of the evening. While Nicolette chose powder blue for herself, Louis selected a coat of royal blue. Yet, it lay beneath a great fur cloak with a gold clasp. The cravat pin was golden as well, with his favorite ruby embedded therein. Though he wore a sword at his side, as always, he had elected to bring his dark dragon headed cane for show. It was rare for him to bring his cane except in social situations where it might add to his gravitas. It seemed a fitting device to toy with while seated in an opera box. It was also handy in beating back an unruly person or two that he preferred not to slay.


The English had yet to embrace opera as much as the Continent. Perhaps it was native pride in the informal. Still, it was a rarity to savor. "Do we know what language it will be sung in?" he asked the coach. He hoped it would be French, but all the best masters of the opera were said to be Italian. This particular opera was said to be authored by a Welshman, the one that Nicci fancied. Louis could only hope it was not sung in Welsh. He might just need to walk out in such a case. Nothing beautiful could be done in the Welsh, Irish or Scottish tongue, to his mind.


There was the usual banter with his sister and her husband. He could only hope that Lucy would announce that she was pregnant. She needed to produce an heir to Somerset at the earliest opportunity. If she was pregnant, she made no mention of it. He would need to inquire further in the upcoming week.


Once outside the coach, everyone straightened their attire before proceeding. Since Lisa was missing, Nicci could be on his arm, and so, his arm was extended.


Once inside, the party assessed the growing crowd before following a servant to their box. The view would be much better there.

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Proceeding in from the Street Entrance


John’s carriage came up and disembarked its passengers. However, on the way John was chewing on some mint leaves to give himself better breath. He stayed outside and to find a patch of dirt to discreetly spit in before coming back and entering the theater and separating himself from the others who’d come, who seemed eager to separate in turn.


As he came inside John gestured over to one of the orange girls that he needed service.


His fuller attention was occupied by looking at those around him. He shifted uneasily at being alone in a crowd. He thought about approaching a redhead but catching a whiff of an… interesting perfume decided to avoid her. He wasn’t sure he could resist holding his nose and it was best to avoid that situation entirely. Perhaps it was best to head directly to the box where a few packages would be waiting.


But just inside hovered a more statuesque beauty. John almost moved past her as well but something stuck. Her awkward hovering was familiar. The slightest move forward and inhale, ready to speak only for the pair to pass by.


Normally he might find her intimidating but there was vulnerability in that loneliness, or at least John perceived one. When it was his turn to pass her by he stopped with a smile, “P-p-pardon my Lady, but… I appear to be intolerably… alone at the moment.”


“I d-d-don’t suppose… I might buh-beg you to k-k-keep my compay?” John bowed, his gait was always an awkward thing but his bows were particularly so. “The Luh-lord Maldon, at your service.”


John usually dressed modestly but tonight he’d dressed up. He had stuck to his usual colors but the red was a particularly lovely shade of crimson and the threading sparkled in the light. He wore court shoes with green ivy buckles. White stockings came up up to red breeches beneath a red coat with white threading that sparkled gently in the light. His head was topped by abundant golden curls. Every time his head twitched they were set to voluminous bouncing. And he held a very fine gold cane topped with courtly ladies, a gift from the master of the opera tonight.

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For a woman who stood out in a crowd, Juliana was being ignored tonight. She had hoped that her presence alone would attract courtiers who were curious about a new arrival to court, but everybody seemed to have their own agenda and she was just in the way. She wasn't accustomed to be neglected, and was beginning to wonder if manipulating her way into the English court had been a mistake. In the Swedish court, she had been its future Queen until the scandal that had resulted in her being sent to an estate in the country. There, she had been important. Here, she was nobody.


It was a strange and uncomfortable feeling.


A stuttering voice brought her out of her thoughts, and she found herself facing a young man who was twitching and shaking uncontrollably. That cane, she thought, is probably not just a fashion accessory. Yet he was dressed quite fashionably and finely (red was one of her favorite colors),, and she was intrigued by the wayt he straightforward way asked her to keep him company. A German by birth, she appreciated candor.


His bow was a bit awkward, but Juliana pretended not to notice and smiled at him when he introduced himself. “It is a pleasure to meet you, my lord. I am Princess Juliana of Hesse-Eschwege and I would be delighted to share your company.” Her gaze swept the room again. “Although its location leaves something to be desired, this theatre is impressive. I hope the opera is equally as magnificent.”

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There were more arrivals as courtiers made their way into the theater to see the opera that His Majesty had wished. Thankfully, it was written and composed by Englishmen and not foreigners, so there was far more curiosity than anti-Papist sentiments about it. Besides, courtiers were not the sorts of fault the King and the people were too distracted by the festivities of holidays, for the time being.


The musicians were prepared and taking their places, as well as those who would sing and play parts. Perhaps it was fortuitous that Master Cole was not yet there to see that one member of his orchestra was yet missing from the ensemble!


Buckingham arrived by a grand coach, wearing a dark blue and ivory brocade, stitched with gold. His mood seemed elevated as he floated through the crowd toward his seats. As it was the artists of his patronage, it had been simple enough to secure a place next to the King, York on his brother's other side (although yet to arrive), and Dorset's yet empty place next to that.


The duke's livery-clad servants waited for Master Cole's arrival to invite him to sit with the duke.


The Basildon's might find a box behind Buckingham and next to Sir John Ernle (although not yet arrived). The astute earl might notice the presence of an identical and ornate basket in each of their places.


York arrived with Colonel John Churchill and Sir George Legge, although both blonds separated from him, seeming to look for something or someone.

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They were arriving Late.


He because his change of attire had been more than twice and while She had long since been ready. Once in his carriage he was quite talkative and this, more of a rarity, made her uneasy. There was something going on with her brother.


She had contributed with a 'yes' or a 'mayhap' and even a few simple nods of her head all of which he had seemed to accept.


it is a Woman


Her assumptation made and the name "Eleanor" came unbidden to her thoughts. Had he in all truth saw to invite her to this? Was she to sit then in his box for all to see giving off the impression that some arrangement had at last been made? That Viscount Baintree would take to wife another mans cast off MIstress?


The idea made her head ache.


It was crowded and they did not stop but a few times to greet before winding their way to his box which was empty still. Davina slipped her furs from about her shoulders and simply stood still her blue eyes wandering the perimeter.


She wore satin as dark a blue as any quality sapphire that shimmered in the lights of the candles and caught at the blue Venitian glass beads that had been embroidered on black velvet that was sewn across the bodice front some three inches wide. Two panels on either side of her closed skirt with the same bead pattern ran from bodice point to just above the hem line created the illusion of extra height.


Her black hair had been freshsly washed and scented with the front half pinned up and the back encased in a snood that had been her grandmothers - spiderwebs of black silk studdded with the same dark blue glass beads. It was so out of fashion that she had dared to wear it.


About her neck was a slim strand of pearls with her ears bare. She knew she looked excellent.


She spied the Basildon Party - with Nicolette also in blue but no competition she judged. Then Buckingham. Then York with his two Gentleman. She also looked for Herbert and The German who no doubt would also be in attendance. And what of Cousin Henry?


It would seem that none had refused and finally she sat her brother whispering that he was off to 'talk here and there' but she suspected he had gone off to fetch HER.


Well no scene would be made but what was to be played out upon that Stage she resolved firmly and so she would do nothing but make the polite small talk that was required, giving all the eyes that watched nothing to talk about.


But where was Charles ....

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“Excellent, excellent.” John replied as she agreed, “I am huh-honored.” In fact, John’s direct request was a rather subtle sort of courtesy. It was meant to allow Juliana to save face and discuss the topic of her aloneness without compromising herself if she chose.


“I’m j-j-just up from… around there, you know. I was stuh-staying with the Nassaus.” John was presuming she was actually from Hesse. Nassau ran along much of its western border.


John wasn’t sure what complaints she had about the location but he wasn’t going to investigate the negative.


“I am s-s-sure the opera shall p-p-please. I know the writer, c-c-composer, star, and some of the muh-musicians and they’re all… very skilled.” Though in truth John only knew they were skilled individually. Hopefully it would come together into a pleasing whole. More importantly, hopefully Princess Juliana would take the hint that speaking ill of the opera, as she had of the location, would be ill advised.


Important personages began to arrive. John whispered, “The D-d-duke of Buckingham, the patron. The Duke of York, the King’s b-b-brother and heir apparent.”

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“Oh?” One blonde eyebrow rose curiously. Juliana found him even more interesting now that she knew he had ties to Nassau. Her grandmother had been a Nassau and she had been named after her. Was it possible that she and Lord Maldon were distantly related? She had lived in Sweden since her early teens and had lost touch with much of her family in Germany. Her mother, a Swedish princess, had been the dominant influence in her life. “Are they relatives of yours?”


Juliana thought the neighborhood around the theatre was rather seedy, and had been a bit afraid that stones would be thrown at her carriage and the other fine coaches waiting to discharge their passengers. Lord Maldon said nothing about it, though, and she wondered if her comment had been unwise. Instead, he spoke of the skill of the composers, singers, and musicians.


If she hadn't already known that the performers were comprised of members of the nobility, she would have thought he was one of those gentlemen who liked to consort with commoners. Not that there was anything wrong with that. Her latest lover had been a commoner and she still thought of him often.


“I do look forward to it. I love music.” And she was curious as to how the composer and librettist had interpreted the story of Diana and Actaeon. Juliana had never seen a play or opera about that myth. She wondered if they had stayed true to the story or had changed it to suit the interests of their audience.


Lord Maldon pointed out various important personages, which she appreciated. She knew the names, of course, but she now had faces to go with them. Juliana had heard many things about the Duke of Buckingham and the Duke of York, both good and bad, and she hoped to meet them eventually, as well as the King.


“Have you been at court long?” she asked him. “You certainly know a lot of people.”

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As always before a theatrical production, chaos reigned backstage. People rushed to and fro and the area was filled with the sounds of singers warming up their voices and stagehands calling instructions to each other. When Sophia had arrived nearly two hours ago, it had been mostly quiet, but now even the dressing room was crowded as the ladies who would be playing the nymphs got into costume, conversing excitedly with each other.


The petite blonde shifted on her hard wooden chair as Anna arranged her hair into a complicated coiffure. Styling her hair took nearly an hour and she had to sit perfectly still while it was braided and curled and adorned with fake leaves and sparkling ribbons. Sophia had even allowed the front of her hair to be cut so that curls could frame her face in the classic Greek style. The braids would be coiled atop her head while some long ringlets remained loose to tumble down her back.


She was so nervous and excited that she trembled visibly as she ran through her arias in her mind and began to get into character. Before the curtain rose, she would be Diana in both appearance and thought, viewing the world from the goddess's eyes. It was a transformation that took a good deal of preparation, which was another reason she had arrived so early. Sophia had already warmed up her voice and was ready to sing.


As soon as Anna was done with her hair, she left the dressing room, walking around to dispel some of her anxiety. She could hear voices and laughter out in the auditorium. People were coming in and taking their places in their boxes or seats. Sophia wished she could pull the curtain back a bit and peek out, but she couldn't get close to the stage. There were too many stagehands checking the scenery to ensure that it would move correctly.


Eventually she meandered back into the dressing room, exchanging good wishes with the other ladies before sitting back down and closing her eyes, concentrating on her role and the character she was soon to portray.

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The Street Entrance


Charles whistled tunelessly as he waited for his turn to disembark, idly tossing his ebony cane from hand to hand. He had changed for the occasion, abandoning the navies and blues of the morning in favour of greens. Frock coat, cravat, eye patch and stockings were sea green, with cascades of white lace at wrists and throat like the spray off a wave, an effect he was most pleased with. Waistcoat and breeches were of mint, with the latter cut considerably more tightly than was the fashion, all the better to show off what, in his opinion, were exquisitely well-formed legs. They were aided in this by his black court shoes, which had the red heels that had somehow become de rigueur at all the courts of Europe.


He had kept his jewellery simple- a silver pocket watch and a simple gold ring and cravat pin, both decorated with a black pearl. He had scorned a periwig, letting his black locks fall about his shoulders in long, artless curls, the result of techniques he and Wodehouse had spent long hours perfecting. His small sword rested on his left hip, balancing the flask of laudanum in his right pocket.


His coach moved up in the queue, leaving but one between him and the entrance. Charles took out his snuff box and used the mirror on the inside of the lid for final spot checks. Eyebrows tamed and freshly plucked, facial hair newly trimmed and clinging to the lines of mouth, chin and jaw as though painted on, pupil... slightly dilated but not conspicuously so. Parfait. He snapped the box shut and returned it to his coat as his driver finally pulled up to the entrance.


Charles all but sprang from the coach, turning to flip a crown piece to the driver. This one had managed to avoid the bulk of the bumps in the road and the earl liked to encourage such good behaviour. He spun his cane once, for devilment, and swept on inside, a stately galleon entering harbour under full sail.




Charles cast his gaze about the hall, searching for personages of interest. His attention was immediately drawn to a frankly stunning blonde conversing with a gentleman clad in red. Charles grinned wolfishly, made a minute adjustment to his cravat and sauntered forth, planning his approach. He had made it no more than halfway, however, when his eye was caught by another tall, attractive blond. His pleasant courtier's mask dissolved into an expression of boyish exuberance.


"John Churchill, as I live and breathe! You look well. But don't tell me you've come alone? I at least have the excuse of being but freshly arrived, but you? I must admit old fellow, I'm disappointed."

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In the Foyer


Nicolette moved with perfect posture alongside Louis as they glided through the foyer, being seen, seeing others.


Mistress Wellsley, Nicolette's smile remained in place as she gave a small nod in Davina's direction. Lord Maldon was talking to someone new, the Frenchwoman inspected the beauty before her eyes caught Johns - the smile given then was more hesitant (it really was a confusing situation between them.) Several steps more brought York and his men into view; most notably John Churchill, whom Nicci had recently recommended to Caroline. Where are you Caroline? Nicolette smiled towards him as he broke apart from the Duke, he seemed to be looking for someone (probably a woman), but found himself approached by a well dressed gentleman [Charles]. Nicolette fought a pleased smile of that, for she had intents to introduce Churchill to Caroline later on.


Onward they walked, till she had to turn her head to look back at those milling around the foyer.


Was that Heather? Nicolette strained to see, and lifted her hand to wave. Louis was being such a man about moving directly to the box seat. Restraining a protest, she smiled to her cousin, and gathered a handful of skits to mount the stairs to effectively disappear from courts view.


In the Boxes


Thankfully Louis was not the only man who had not dilly dallied at the entrance.


Nicolette was more than pleased to see the location of their box seat, Buckingham was so close! She smiled and acknowledged the Duke with a curtsy and incline of head; and on a whim gave him playful up and down look apprising his appearance before flipping open her fan 'to cool her cheeks' - a little show to begin he night, fanning his ego, he surely expected nothing less!

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“I was r-r-raised by my cousin and his… son married a niece of a Nassau.” John explained the connection. He had no idea of Juliana’s ties. He was only now discovering and exploring his continental connections. So far the signs for a future in the Netherlands had been terrible and Germany good. There was a reason he mentioned his time in Nassau and not in Amsterdam with the Dutch Nassaus.


John had wondered whether or not she was insulting England or London rather than the specific neighborhood which was, indeed, not his country’s finest. Foreigners, especially coming to a show that was an imitation of a foreign fashion, might be expected some snobbery. Still, he only smiled. His countenance was as pleasant and mild as it usually was.


John did, in fact, have rather more contact with commoners than was normal. While he had been kept away from society on account of his condition few people had thought to keep him away from commoners. His first experience of theater had been the town and guild plays.


No one seemed to fault him it. Then again, he was often ignored and he’d never actually violated a social boundary. There was no commoner lovers or dressing up as a commoner to go among them in his past. Perhaps no one had noticed even though he’d used local dialect and spoke of attending peasant events at times.


John smiled as she spoke of a love of music. “Have you seen an opera b-b-before?” John was just as curious in truth. He knew very little about how the story had been changed. He knew less about how operas were performed. He had certainly seen performances where the lines were sung or where the entire story was told in song. But those were parts of native and peasant traditions.


“A few days.” John understood the question, as he had before, in a more immediate context than it was intended perhaps. He couldn’t comprehend of it in a wider sense than that. “I m-m-met the p-p-people involved a few months ago… when I came down for… Parliament. And everyone knows my lords.”


Nicolette slid by and smiled hesitantly. John smiled without hesitation and gave her a small wave. Their situation was confusing, especially after the mistaken impressions of a few months ago, the disaster of the stroll, and his conflicting feelings over her suit on the King. At some point one of them would have to actually bite the bullet and work through the awkwardness. Neither had yet made that move.


His attention left Juliana only for a brief moment. "My apologies. That was Mademoiselle Vauquelin, c-c-cousin of Lord Basildon. The Earl of Basildon, a m-m-man rising in the finance muh-ministry. His wife and b-b-brother in law, the Duke of Somerset, along with the Luh-lady." John said as they passed by.

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Caroline had arrived in plenty of time, thanks to the kindness (well it turned out to be quite a bit more than simple kindness had it not?) of Lord Audley. As she removed her coat and placed it upon a wall hook, she still could not stop dwelling on what had just happened. She had found a man who was truly interested in her! No matter if it was merely for coarse reasons as she too was inclined in that very direction. Picking up her cello case, she moved toward the seats where the rest of the musicians were tuning their own instruments. It was time to concentrate now on the music for this opera was truly important to her and to others she valued such as Master Cole and Lady Toledo. None of them wanted to be associated with an embarrassment or a disaster. No, everything must be perfect!


She could hear the crowd arriving, no doubt in a holiday mood. She could only hope they would leave in good spirits too. It sounded like there would possibly be a crowded house, good!


Removing her cello from it's case, she stared at it almost lovingly for a fleeting few seconds, it never failed to induce fond memories of her dear mother. Yes, tonight she would play her finest not only for the living but for her greatly missed parent too.

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