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Charitable works aka What madness is this?! | 25th 1pm- Xmas 1677


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Location: may shift during the thread, currently the carriage is stopped at one of the old london gates.


Now most ladies would have sent a maid or liveried servant, but this Duchess had a thirst for adventure. "Now I shall sort this out." her eyes glinted discovering a fun in that. Anne Scott dismounted her carriage, again thankful for her sensible boots as she carefully walked across the walked to the guard barring the road.


"What is the problem... sir.... Admiral is it?" she grinned as she deliberately cited his rank impossibly high.


The guard, in a costume not recognizable as either the Towers, the Palaces, or London Cities, gave a limp smile. "Just call me Roberts marm. Err, we are err... taking precautions mam."

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Time: around 1 pm


The carriage stopped so suddenly that Sophia had to brace herself with one hand so as not to fall forward and crack her head on the wall. Is something wrong? she wondered. Are the roads closed on Christmas day?


Curious, she opened the door and stepped out, her violet silk fur-lined cloak pulled tight around her. There was another carriage in front of hers and a lady she recognized as the Duchess of Monmouth was speaking to a uniformed guard. As she walked over to them, her flaxen curls bounced around her shoulders. Atop her head was a fur hat trimmed with feathers and a circle of pearls with a small amethyst in the center.


Sophia curtsied as she approached. “Good afternoon, Your Grace.” she said with a warm smile. She glanced at the guard and then back to the Duchess, her smile fading slightly. “What is going on?”

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Matters only got worse for Roberts, as another woman of the quality climbed out and questioned him.


"On who's authority are you doing this?" Anne tacked on to Sophia's further question, having smiled to see her friend, and now linking her arm through the others. A veritable lace&frills show of force.


"Err... ahh... I'd rather not say Marm. I, ahh, we, just want to check your carriages for, err.. stowaways."


Meanwhile the ladies might see that Roberts companions were looking over (and under) a carriage that had just crossed the bridge.


"Well I have no stowaways, only cakes." The Duchess declared, then looking at Sophia with an amused expression. What an unusual novelty was this!

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Sophia grinned as the Duchess linked arms with her. They both shared a love of adventure and who knew where this annoying interruption would lead?


The guard refused to tell them who had given him orders to search the carriages, which sounded a bit suspicious to the blonde Baroness. She noticed more guards searching a coach across the bridge, even looking beneath it. What exactly were they looking for? People? Or animals? She had heard that lions were kept in the Tower. Had one of them escaped?


Now she wished that she had brought Aurora with her. The monkey would have given the soldiers quite a shock when they looked inside her carriage. But she had left the golden lion tamarin at home today. She had been sleeping soundly on Sophia's bed curled up with one of her cats when she had decided to go on this little excursion.


The Duchess was carrying cakes? Maybe she planned to give them to the poor. “You will find nothing in my carriage but paints and an easel.” Sophia had planned to find a place to paint. She had been too restless to sit in the house, perhaps because she was having difficult adjusting to the change in residence. She was not quite comfortable living in the house that had once belonged to Ronquillo, which was one of the reasons she was so adamant about redecorating.


“What kind of stowaways are you looking for? Perhaps we might have seen them.” Certainly the guard would be more forthcoming if he thought they had information that might help him find who … or what … he sought.

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Anne was also pleased to see Sophia, an adventure was always more fun when shared! And as both of them owned the were not hiding anything, she gave a pleased smile to the Guard. "So you had best let us passed right away."


"Arr... err.... um...." the guard did seem on his back foot somewhat, it was one thing to search city carriages and common folks wagons -- while quite another thing to hold up the gentry and ranked ladies. He met Sophia's eyes and frowned of her question, then very carefully replied, "... of the person kind." plainly enough he was not telling them everything.


"Ah, yes, yes carry on miladies both, cake and paints, that's fine just fine, err... and lets keep this just between us." who was this fellow actually? His uniform was a grey, possibly had been white once, and had a goldenrod star sewn into on the left side. Calling out to his fellows he said, "Let the ladies on past, I've cleared them!"


It was almost an anticlimax, Anne turned to Sophia and blinked of it.

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The guard seemed reluctant to tell them anything but that they were looking for a person. His stammering answer sounded rather suspicious to Sophia. Why wouldn't he give them a description of this mysterious individual? She didn't recognize his uniform. Was he really a guard at all? Maybe he and his companions were thieves dressed like guards and taking valuables out of the coaches they searched.


Her vivid imagination was, as usual, running wild, but she thought it was a plausible theory, particularly when he told them they could go. Cakes and painting supplies weren't of interest to thieves, unless they were hungry or artistically inclined.


Lady Monmouth's surprise mirrored her own. “Something doesn't seem right about this,” she whispered. “Let us see if we can find out more.”


Turning her attention to the guard, she smiled disarmingly. “Thank you, good sir. You are most kind. Will you describe the person you are looking for? I have seen many people today.” Actually, she hadn't, but the soldier didn't know that. “And if you want this to stay just between us, you should tell us who you work for so we do not accidentally let something slip in front of your superiors.”

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The man had avoided answering her own inquiry to their authority, but that did not stop Sophia from trying too. Anne added, "... just in case we see something suspicious."


Roberts was just turning around, Sophia might have caught a glimpse of some writing on the back of his jacket before he turned back to frowned at the meddlesome women, "Its all under control ladies, if you see anything out of the usual you should tell your husbands. This is men's work." That was the trouble with women, once they got an idea in their heads it was like a dog with a bone.


"Do you need any help milady?" called Anne's carriage driver. Sophia's was watching goings on too, and gave a look to his lady.


The guard, if that was what he was, begun to turn again; and the elusive writing on the back of his jacket peeked:





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Sophia grinned at Anne, certain that now the guard would at least describe the person he was looking for. She peered at the writing on the back of his jacket but he turned around before she could see what it said.


And still he refused to give them any details. As stubborn at any German, the young Baroness refused to give up. “What if we are attacked before we get home? Our husbands will come looking for you if we are harmed. Do you really want to anger a Duke and an Ambassador?” The Duchess' husband was much more important than Esteban, but if an Ambassador's wife was hurt (especially one who was the secret mistress of that country's Prime Minister), an entire country might demand answers.


“If we do not know what to look for, how are we to stay out of danger?”


She heard Lady Monmouth's driver call out to her, and she looked over at her own, who was also watching, and shrugged. As the guard started to turn around again, a few letters of the writing on the back of his jacket was revealed. With a wink at Anne, Sophia stumbled forward, as if she had tripped over something, and bumped into him with a startled “Oh!” Grabbing the back of his jacket, ostensibly to keep from falling, she tried to get a good look at what was written there.

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"You are under no risk of being attacked." the Guard turned back again, trying to calm the women down. The last thing he wanted was hysterics. "They are just... lost, yes, lost. UP to a bit of mischief I suppose."


Then Sophias threatened him with the ire of their husbands. Anne was about to mention that her own husband was abroad, but bit her tongue. Sophia was on a roll.


"Ah yes." but this was not the guards first circus, and so he called the pretty womans bluff with a nonplussed expression. "Yes well best you send them out to me here then, perhaps his royal majesty and a couple of the princes while you are at it too."


It was then that Sophia did her stumbling act. Lurching the guard, and practically tearing his jacket off his back. She did manage to get a good look at the writing this time though, bot of the ladies did. Bethlehem Star Hospital. The place that locals called Bethlem for short, pronounced Bedlam; relocated in '76 to Moorfields, but and not without an ongoing hiccup or two.


Eyes widening, Anne clasped then pulled at Sophia's hand. "Well good luck to you." she wished the man, before leaning in to whisper to Sophia. "I was going to take Christmas cake to the orphanage, but lets take it to Bethlhem Hospital instead and find out what is up. Lets!"

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Lost people who were getting into mischief? Puzzling, but intriguing. If Sophia found them first, she might join in on the mischief, and she suspected that the Duchess would be right behind her … or perhaps ahead of her. But where did these mysterious people belong? She really wanted to see what was written on the back of the guard's uniform.


He didn't seem at all perturbed by her threat, and she fought the urge to roll her eyes at his sarcastic retort. “Maybe I will,” she replied with a cheeky grin, but he was already turning his back on them and probably didn't see it. However, she did see the words on his uniform when she expertly stumbled into him, drawing on her acting ability to make it look realistic and accidental. Bethlehem Star Hospital. Sophia had heard of it. It was a hospital for crazy people. Were some of them missing?


Anne pulled on her hand and Sophia stepped backward again. “Yes, good luck,” she told the guard. “We will not keep you any longer.”


“What a grand idea!” she whispered back to the Duchess, her eyes sparkling with anticipation. “Should we take both carriages or just one?”

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Shortly enough the pair were in a close huddle, drawing a concerned look from the Duchess's driver (though the oddness of her ladyships excursions really ought to becoming a norm to him!). "Lets share a carriage," was her instant reply, eyes gleaming with anticipation of an adventure.


Moving to the carriage, Anne then stood expectantly at the closed door, waiting for her driver to get down and open the door for them.


"Perhaps we can help? The escaped people that is." Anne giggled of that, and looking to see if she'd surprised Sophia by saying it. A secret part of Anne's quest for adventure was to shake others opinion of her. "I dare say they want to go home for Christmas, even mad people have families yes?"

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As Sophia had hoped, the Duchess wanted to share a carriage. “I will tell my driver to go home if you do not might dropping me off when we are done.” She thought that Esteban would encourage her association with Anne, and she would tell her driver to inform him who she was with. If Anne didn't want to take her home, her carriage could be pulled off the road and wait for her here.


After giving the appropriate instructions to her driver, she returned to Anne's carriage. A mischievous grin was her answer to the Duchess' suggestion. “Do you think that is why they escaped? So they could go home for Christmas? We should definitely help them then, but how are we to find them? Do you think they may still be on the hospital grounds? Or maybe somebody there can tell us who they are and where they used to live so that we can investigate further.”


Her grin brightened. “And I'm sure those who are still there will enjoy some cake for Christmas.”

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"Oh yes certainly, send your man back home." The Duchess replied, delighted to have company, especially the daring sort.


As the ladies settled in (although the carriage had not started moving), they begun to chatter of it happily. "Well I would want to go home for the celebration, to be with friends and family, and to feast, it's really quite my favorite time of year. Apart from the cold."


"Hmm." Sophia rattled of question, which seemed to make her the expert. "Well." she put her finger to her lips with thought. "Well it cant be that hard if some have already escaped, to free the others that want to head off." She then paused and frowned. "They have cut it rather fine don't you think, my cook always likes to know of dinner guests at least a day in advance. Ah well, I suppose the surprise shall be their present to their families." She was pleased it was not her family though. Cook would hit the roof.


"Oh yes." Sophia also had good ideas. Curiously perhaps the carriage was still stood dead still. "Why, we make a marvelous team."

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After her coach departed, Sophia sat opposite Anne in her carriage, perching on the edge of the seat and leaning toward her new friend as she spoke. The Duchess surmised that the patients did indeed want to be with their families for Christmas. It didn't occur to the diminutive singer that their families wouldn't welcome them back. They had been sent to the hospital for a reason.


“I spent most of my Christmases away from home in Venice,” she confessed, “but my father always came to visit.” He had been the only family she'd had left, so there was no reason to go back to Germany for holidays. “I love Christmas too. Would it not be wonderful if it took place in the summer? Then it would be just perfect.” Even in Italy, winters had been a bit too cold for Sophia.


“I feel sorry for the people at the hospital, confined even on Christmas. I wonder if there are activities for them there and decorations they can enjoy.” Next year, she would bring them a Christmas tree and maybe a pyramid. She imagined that they would like watching the platforms spin as long as they were kept away from the candles.


Freeing the others? That was something she had not considered, but it did sound exciting. In light of her new position, Sophia had told her cook to always make a bit extra in case they had unexpected guests. It was possible that Esteban might bring a gentleman home with him if their business had not been concluded by dinnertime. Maybe some English families did the same.


“I'm sure their families will be delighted. But how do we get them to their homes? Maybe I should have brought my carriage, after all. And we must be sneaky so nobody is aware that we are helping them or we will be in serious trouble.” Her eyes sparkled mischievously. Danger was part of the lure of adventure. “We should have disguised ourselves but we can give false names if anybody asks who we are.


“Ja, we make a splendid team!” she agreed, finally settling back into her seat. The carriage had not yet moved, but it was up to Anne to give the order. “I hope we can find the patients who escaped too, before those awful guards get their hands on them.”

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"Yes perfect, ah but that would truly be a Christmas miracle." Anne replied of the fanciful idea of Christmas in the summertime.


“Well I suppose we shall find out. Perhaps we should talk to the... governor? Do you think the head of the Hospital is called a Governor. Yes but we must surely talk to him, it is rather cruel if he does not let families visit for Christmas, like your papa visited you. We aren't in Venice, but civilized England after all!"


"Pryamid?" She blinked of that. It made no sense. "Ah... is that something to do with the three wise men? I'd always thought they had donkeys and stayed in the stable too. But now I think of it, it is in the east. Perhaps it was camels and pyramids then?" she paused then, and had to ask cautiously, "so, that is what the catholics teach mmm?" Sophia might know, some said that Sophia was Catholic, she'd married a Spaniard after all.


“Oh I dont think we should take responsibility for their homeward journeys. Why that is taking our christian duty a tad too far." Anne expressed quickly. She did not want to risk having to take undelivered patient home for dinner at her place, not without due notice to her cook. "Unless you want to do that?" Perhaps Sophia's cook was more liberal.


"Mmm, I shall give my real name, after all I want to speak to the Governor or whatever he is, and the simple fact is that being a Duchess is like having a key in such situations." she was a little pleased to reveal this to Sophia.


Anne expected the driver to commence the journey at any moment, after all she'd instructed him earlier. Grinning of their dynamic duo, she then agreed, "I didn't like the guards either. What horrible uniforms for one, why they really should wear a nice blue, or perhaps mauve. And did you see the needlework on the star, why it was as though a six year old had done it!"

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Was the head of a hospital called a governor? Sophia had not heard or read much about hospitals in English. She had no idea what the proper word was. “I do not know. Maybe that is what they are called.” Anne would know more about such things than a foreigner, so she supposed that she must be right. “But if we speak to him and then he finds out that some of his patients have escaped, do you not think he will automatically blame us?”


She didn't say anything when the Duchess implied that Venice was not as civilized at England. In her opinion, any place she had visited on the continent was more advanced, at least where art and culture was concerned. Maybe England had better hospitals. The young Baroness had never thought much about hospitals.


Sophia shook her head when Anne surmised that the wise men came from the pyramids. Perhaps they did, but that was not what she was talking about. “It is a German Christmas decoration with platforms in the shape of a pyramid that turn when candles are lit around it. Most of them are nativity scenes, with Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus in the manger as well as shepherds, wise men, and angels. Sometime the wise men have camels. I will show you one before the season is over.” Maybe she would even give her one as a gift if she found them fascinating.


She remained silent on the subject of Catholicism as well. Sophia remembered seeing nativity scenes in the church her stepmother went to, but she couldn't remember if they differed from those in Protestant churches.


“Then what do we do when we liberate them? Just let them loose in the city? Those horrible guards might catch them before they get to their homes. Maybe we can send notes to their families to come and get them? Then they will be safe.” She didn't want the responsibility of taking rejected patients home with her either. She doubted that Esteban would be pleased sharing his Christmas dinner with a bunch of loonies.


Sophia did agree that a Duchess could open doors that were closed to anybody else. And she might not get in as much trouble if their schemes were thwarted. “I shall give a false name.” As the very young wife of the new Spanish Ambassador, she believed she had more to lose, such as her husband's respect. “Maybe I could pretend to be your maidservant.” She was dressed far too finely for a maidservant, but that notion didn't cross her mind.


“Purple,” she stated. “They should wear purple. I did not get a good look at the stars. I had to regain my balance before I fell.” Her head tilted to the side. “What if the guards are really the escaped patients and they are hiding themselves in plain sight in order to make their way back to the city and their families? Do you think that is possible?"

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"But what is the alternative, it's not like we can talk to the patients, they keep them separated away." which left the guards. "I really don't fancy talking to that guard again." Blinking Anne glanced out the window, and a little frown marred her expression as she noticed they were not moving. Across the way the guard had stopped a wagon and was searching under the canvas that covered it's load.


"Oh?" she looked surprised as Sophia explained Christmas pyramids. "are you quite German then? I had thought you were from Venice, or Florence, or.. somewhere thereabouts." she was about to learn more about her friend, and listened with an amicable expression. "a pyramid sounds rather pretty indeed, I want one too, did you get yours from Germany then?"


“Yes, that seems to be what they want to do." she glanced out the window at the guard again. He seemed to find nobody, and waved the carriage on. "It's not like we'd corral them into some other place. Thats not what you had in mind though is it? I mean, freedom means, being free to go where one wants." She smiled then in self reflection. Anne felt free these days -why just look at her now.


"I believe their families already know where they are." Anne replied to Sophia's idea. Sophia was rather young after all, and probably had not though her idea through.


Yet as Sophia wanted to invent fake names Anne became perturbed, something about it did not sit right at all. "Well no." she replied, "honesty is important I think. If everyone went about fibbing like that, well you could no believe anything at all." She discovered a failing in Sophia's upbringing, and tried to readdress it gently. "Especially not at Christmas, when the Lords Grace is at the center of our thoughts. I think anything truly good is worth honesty, it's not like we have any ill intent, or plan to do anything to be ashamed about. I don't feel ashamed of it at least." Though talking Anne discovered upon what disturbed her about Sophia's wish to remain anonymous. It implied that their idea was dishonorable to not want to put her name to it.


Perturbed, Anne shook her read. Rethinking the entire idea now that Sophia had (unwittingly) seeded such doubts. Maybe it was a shameful idea. "Perhaps we should just go home, I dont know what is up with the carriage anyhow, why aren't we moving?"

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“If we say we want to serve the cake to them ourselves, maybe we can talk to the patients. Unless we can get to them, we will not be able to free them.” Sophia grinned. “Between the two of us we should be able to convince the guards to do whatever we ask them to.” Even without a healthy dose of charm, how would they be able to refuse the request of two highborn ladies bringing holiday cheer to the patients on Christmas?


“Yes I am German, but I moved to Venice when I was eleven to train my voice with the best opera singers in Italy. I loved it there. I feel more at home in Italy than I do in my own homeland and I speak Italian as if I had been born there.” When the Duchess said she wanted a pyramid, Sophia's decision was made. She would give her one as a Christmas gift. “I brought several with me from Germany, a few new ones and old ones I remember from my childhood.” She smiled secretively. “Be careful what you wish for. You might actually get it.”


Sophia was a bit concerned that the patients might get hurt if they were left to roam around on their own. She had never seen an insane person and didn't know if they were capable of coherent reasoning or common sense. But they could find that out at the hospital. “Of course they can go anywhere they want once we free them. Maybe some of them would rather visit friends than family. Perhaps we should just guide them a bit in the right direction and let them do what ever they want.”


Anne obviously valued honesty more than Sophia, who didn't mind lying to save her own arse. “I don't mean to be dishonest,” she tried to explain, “and I am not ashamed of what we plan to do. I do not mind giving my own name. I just think disguises are fun and often lead to adventure.” She also didn't want to anger Esteban. Her marriage was still new and he had just been promoted to Ambassador.


She leaned forward, her eyes shining with enthusiasm. “Have you never pretended to be someone else before? If not, we should do it together one day. It is not done in order to deceive. It is more like a game to see if you can get away with it."


The young Baroness was disappointed that Anne wanted to give up. “I think we should at least go to the hospital and deliver the cake. The patients will enjoy it and we can find out the identity of the people who escaped and help them even if we do not free the others. We can solve the mystery of the missing patients. I do so love mysteries.”


As for the carriage, Sophia was so short she couldn't see much from the window. “I will ask the driver,” she volunteered. Opening the door, she stepped out of the coach.



{OOC: I'm not sure if she is going to come upon anything significant when she leaves the carriage, so I left it there. }

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When Sophia suggested that they serve the cake personally, Anne was shocked. She was as easy going as anyone, but the idea of performing servitude to commoners had never crossed her mind before. Blinking she tried to come to terms with the wild idea.


"I'd rather talk to the Governor. If he's unreasonable however, then we could tell him your idea, as a last resort."


"Now I understand." Anne smiled as Sophia explained about her heritage, and why she'd never heard her talk about Germany before. "And so you honeymooned there with your new husband. What a good idea to bring back presents. Oh, that would make a lovely gift for Her Highness too." she struck upon the idea, and then laughed at herself, "ah but no doubt that is what your plan was all along. Sorry my dear!"


Sophia did seem to want to keep a control over anyone she 'rescued'. Anne was of the opposite school of thought. A compromise was necessary. "Well you can help yours, mine I shall just set free." she smiled, "oh, it shall be liek an experiment, later on we shall talk about our results. Oh, perhaps we shall write it into a paper, and ask for it to be published. It could become famous research, we might be heralded as... ah, some sort of doctoring heros. Oh I home mine are cured from seeing their familes. Oh I hope yours are cured too of course. Wouldn't it be wonderful?"


"Oh, a disguise." yes that made mroe sense to Anne. "But, I doubt that just anyone can demand to see the Governor like I can if I say who I am. So, then I cant have a disguise can I. And. Then, well it would not be fair if I am exposed for who I am, and you are not. I think we need to go all in together. Both disguised, or both not. And if we go disguised, what if they think we are checking in rather than planning to help others check out!" Still, now that Sophia had suggested disguises, and seeded the idea that they might get in trouble if everyone found out, Anne was on the back foot.


"Perhaps we should get disguises then. Perhaps we should do this tomorrow instead. We can deliver the cake to the orphanage, like I'd first intended."


Anne nodded to Sophia stepping out to find out what was going on, and peered out the window as her young friend went to inquire.


The driver was sat on his perch looking dead serious, and none so happy about it either. Hearing the carriage door and then footsteps he braced for what was to come. But it was not Anne it was the lady friend. Surprised he uttered an "Ach." then frowned again. "Err... I am one His Graces instructions marm, Her Grace is banned from dangerous ventures under his express orders."

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Sophia saw nothing wrong with serving cake to the hospital's patients. Wasn't that what charity was all about? Humbling yourself to help the unfortunate? She did see the merit in Anne's idea. If they got permission from whomever was in charge, they would not have to sneak the patients out. It would be safer for both of them as they would face no repercussions if they were caught. It wasn't nearly as adventurous as liberating the patients themselves, though.


“We stopped at my estate before going on to Spain,” she explained, grinning when Anne suggested she give a pyramid to the Queen. “Great minds think alike,” she quipped. “I bought one just for her and planned to give it to her at the opera, but she was not there. I will try again tonight at the ball. It is traditional for Germans to give each other gifts around Christmas instead of on New Year's Day. We also decorate trees on Christmas Eve. There is one at my house if you would like to see it.”


The young Ambassadress was indeed concerned about the patients' welfare. If their mischief was discovered and one of them was harmed, then they would be held responsible. Even if they weren't found out, Sophia would feel guilty if something happened to them. And though she thought it was a long-shot, getting a paper published about their successful experiment was definitely appealing … if the patients were cured after being reunited with their families. People would have to take her seriously if she made a scientific discovery.


“I think we should be straightforward about our identities today,” Sophia suggested. “We do not have the time to come up with disguises. But if we are not able to convince the governor to let us speak to the prisoners, we can go back tomorrow in disguise.”


When Sophia stepped out of the carriage, she didn't see any obstacles in their way and she walked up to the driver, who was sitting resolutely on his perch and asked him why they had not moved yet. His answer dismayed her. She didn't want to give up the adventure, but she didn't want to anger a Duke, either. Now she wished she had not sent her own carriage away. “I see,” she said, hiding her disappointment well. “Of course you must follow your master's orders.”


She returned to the coach and again settled herself opposite the Duchess. “It looks like we will have to go to the orphanage after all. Your driver seems to think going to the hospital is dangerous. However, we can disguise ourselves tomorrow and hire a carriage so that nobody will be able to trace our whereabouts. Oh!” Sophia leaned forward as an idea came to her. “We could pretend to be representatives of the patient's families and tell the governor that he must release them into our custody. How does that sound?”


Sitting back, she smiled mischievously. “And who knows what might happen at the orphanage? Adventure may be awaiting us there.”

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Beverly would have understood Anne's sentiment, Sophia had had a rather different upbringing after all, it was little wonder the bourgeois woman was surprised of nobles bias.


"A gift at the ball, but that will be rather cumbersome." Anne as Sophia's friend did not hold back the truth, "Besides the day for gift giving is New Years, that is the proper English thing, to do any other thing will invite strange looks. And it would do no good to seem to show up others who are not giving a gift at the ball. No you must wait till the proper day for it Lady Toledo. People are like sheep, we need follow the groups lead, to step out of the usual will only get you labeled as unusual." She was able to advise the 16 year old.


"Ah, you might say that we today are stepping out of the usual, or considering it at least." the Duchess paused to think about that. The subject seemed to mesh.


"Then let us treat today as information gathering, you and I as ourselves, bringing cake to the afflicted. Depending upon what we find, we may need to go... undercover. In which case we will protect our identities from the Governor, and from anyone at Court finding out."


Outside of the carriage, the driver gave a satisfied nod to Sophia's acquiescence... though once Sophia returned to the carriage it was a different story. "Excuse me?" Anne bade Sophia repeat herself, with a frown forming on her porcelain perfect forehead - even as she was reaching for the doorhandle.


Sophia was trying to make the best of it, trying to adjust their plans to suit. Sophia was not Anne however. Anne was utterly miffed that her scoundrel of a husband thought to restrict her so!


And so it happened that the small figure stood on the icy ground and called up to the seated driver. "Mr Simmons, Mr Simmons what is the meaning of this. You shall deliver us to Bedlam Hospital this moment!"

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Douglas was heading back to Chelsea. He'd made his presence felt at Whitehall, satisfied himself that the King was alive and in rude good health and attended the Christmas service. Now the previous day's long journey and poor night's sleep were starting to make themselves felt. On the cards were lunch, a nap, a bath and then preparing for the ball that night. It would be a pleasant way to spend the afternoon and ensure that he was rested and ready to make full use of the evening.


Except that the traffic wasn't moving very fast; a number of coaches were backed up due to some trouble in front. The advantage of being on horseback was that he could move Daemhan past the coaches and hopefully past the cause of the holdup. There was a beef and bacon pie with his name on it in the pantry at Alyth House.


"Mr Simmons, Mr Simmons what is the meaning of this? You shall deliver us to Bedlam Hospital this moment!"


He knew that voice. Knew it all too well, and whilst he was pleased to hear the measure of confidence it contained, he couldn't help but wince at the wording. No doubt there were some who felt Anne belonged in Bedlam, maybe even one or two - like her husband- who would like to see her there. Why on earth would the Duchess be making such a demand?


"Yer Grace?" Douglas called out as he rounded the end of the coach and came upon, yes, Anne Scott, standing in the road and apparently arguing with her driver. "T'sinae the kind o' demand ye want tae be makin' in the middle o' the street." He observed. "Les' abody agree wi' ye."* He added dryly.


"Kin I be o' assistance?"** That was always a good standby for a gentleman not entirely certain what he was getting himself into.



* "Your Grace? That isn't the kind of demand you want to be making in the middle of the street. Lest somebody agree with you.

* "Can I be of assistance?"

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“It will not be cumbersome. I will have help with it.” Sophia listened intently to the rest of Anne's advice, appreciating her candor. She hadn't thought that giving the Queen a gift before New Year's Day would upset other courtiers who might think she was showing off. The diminutive singer had done enough showing off last night. She planned to keep a low profile at the ball, or as low a profile as her gown would allow. Of course, if there was an opportunity to sing, she wouldn't turn it down.


Sheep? If Sophia was a sheep, it was a black one. She had never been one to follow the crowd, and she doubted she ever would be. And coming from some of the more holier-than-thou people at court, being called 'unusual' would be a compliment. However, the Duchess seemed adamant that her idea was not very prudent, and she would at least take her opinion into consideration. “I have another gift for her on New Years Day, but perhaps I will give both of them to her at the same time.”


She would bring the pyramid with her and play it by ear. Lord Maldon might be disappointed if she changed her mind, but she doubted that he wanted to be known as 'unusual.' It was a label that was probably already applied to him because of his physical afflictions, which Sophia thought was utterly unfair. If anyone so much as looked at him with disdain when she was with him, she would kick them in the shins and damn the consequences.


At least Anne agreed with her plan for today's adventure. “If we do have to disguise ourselves, we should pretend to be gentlemen. We will be taken more seriously then, and who would believe that a Duchess and an Ambassador's wife would dress as the opposite gender? There will be no chance of us being caught.”


But it looked like they would not be going to the hospital at all. Anne didn't take it well when Sophia informed her of the driver's orders, and she wasn't sure if she even heard the young Baroness' idea on how to go about freeing the patients in disguise. She sighed as her friend left the carriage and listened as she demanded that the driver take them to Bedlam. It was not Sophia's place to question the orders of a Duke, but maybe the driver would obey his mistress.


A voice replied, but it didn't belong to the driver. It was a voice that Sophia would recognize anywhere, and her heart leapt in her chest. Lord Dundarg! Curiously, she peered out the window, smiling softly when she saw the handsome form of the tall Scot standing beside Anne. Did the two of them know each other?

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Anne wished her friend well, "No doubt Her Majesty shall appreciate another of her nation at the ball none the less." she could understand that ambition had Sophia eager to make good impressions on the Queen.


As for their afternoons plans however, it was all up in the air as the Driver refused. Meanwhile Anne was so dismayed she hardly thought about who might overhear her. It was then that the Lifeguard appeared, with advice for moderation of tone.


Anne drew a breath, frowned, and shook her head, reluctant to admit to herself that he had a point there. "But... But Lady Toldeo and I have cake." as if that explained everything. Looking between Sophia who poked her head out of the window, Douglas atop lofty horse, and the Driver upon his high perch - the Duchess pouted and stamped her foot with a huffed, "Oh pooh."

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Lady Toledo? Automatically Douglas turned in his saddle and glanced at the coach in time to see the vivacious German woman lean through the window to see what was happening. He gave her a broad smile and a tip of his cavalier's hat.


His attention was drawn back to Anne's pouting face as it became clear whatever she was planning was being foiled. "Cake?" He echoed, momentarily at a loss. Why would they wish to take cake to Bedlam? There had to be more to this.


Well, Douglas was rarely uncertain around women. "T'soonds like thairs a story thair Yer Grace." He observed, thinking that it would probably be an entertaining one at that. "Haps I kin tempt ye both tae Kemps an' ye kin tell me aw aboot't."* He suggested, with a wink. Who knew, there might be another way to achieve their aim.


Kemps Coffee House was very popular, not just with the aristocracy but with actors and playwrights, and a place where one could meet just about anyone.



* "It sounds like there's a story there Your Grace. Perhaps I can tempt you both to Kemps and you can tell me all about it."

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Sophia grinned when Lord Dundarg tipped his hat to her. He was still as charming as ever and she couldn't help thinking what might have been had she not fallen in love with Don Juan and married Esteban to be closer to him. If she had wed the handsome Scot, she believed that he would have supported her performance at the opera last night, not berate her for it. Then again, she wouldn't have been an Ambassador's wife. Because of her new position, she was held to stricter standards than she had been before.


She wondered if she should stay in the coach, but she was too curious for that, and she stepped outside into the frigid air, pulling her fur cloak tightly around her as she approached the Life Guard and the Duchess. Douglas was just suggesting that they go to Kemp's when she stopped beside Anne, looking over at her friend. “We were planning to take cake to the patients, to bring them a bit of Christmas cheer,” she explained. Surely the driver would not object if Douglas offered to go along with them. They would be perfectly safe under his protection.


Smiling warmly at Lord Dundarg, she playfully held her hand up to be kissed. “It is a pleasure to see you again, my lord,” she greeted him.

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The Duchess had an equally high opinion of Douglas, well, sort of, she'd never had illusions of marrying him. She'd been married many years already, and as a Duchess in her own right, there had been little to say in her match to the kings bastard son. It had never been the happiest of marriages, although there had still been moments, and for years she'd held hope that a story book ending would one day come. But, Jemmy was just a rascal. And she'd been unhappy. Unhappy that was, until something had snapped, and she'd decided to take her life into her own hands.


Which was exactly what she was doing today.


Which was precisely why she fumed that her husband, even while sent from England in disgrace, prevented her!


"I would usually love a cup of tea." she replied, though it was the last thing she felt like doing right now. Her body had raised an energy in it that needed expending upon an adventure. And apprantly Sophia felt the same - for she hopped out of th ecarriage and explained (part) of their plan to him.


Anne looked at Sophia briefly, her eyes flaring, it was a little warning that they ought not say too much.


"Yes, it is hardly fair that they don't also celebrate the season, my cook has been making cakes all yesterday, and today I was bound to deliver them, when I came upon Lady Toledo, and we thought to go together."


"Only my driver, is being difficult." she turned to glare at the man atop the carriage.


"It's hardly christian to fire someone on Christmas day, but I am sorely tempted."


Would Douglas hinder or help?

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It didn't do to remain mounted whilst the ladies were on foot, so Douglas swung down from Daemhan's back as Sophia stepped down from the coach. She was as beautiful as the day he'd met her, though now she had a rather more worldly air to her. Rumour had it that the Opera had been a raging success.


Taking her offered hand in his much larger one, he bowed over it and kissed her fingers. "Th'pleasure's aw mine, I assure ye."* He replied. Whilst he'd had ambitions to marry Sophia they hadn't been purely for her assets; he considered her a very fine young lady and excellent company. That she was attractive and winsome didn't hurt his admiration of her.


He also admired Anne Scott, who was a very fine Scottish lady, well bred but spirited, and who always held a certain poise and grace that he couldn't help but find attractive. That she seemed to be now determined not to live in her husband's shadow but enjoy her own life was a change that suited her.


Between them the two ladies explained the situation, which was an unusual one though it made a certain kind of sense. "The charitable spirit o' Christmas haesna been fergitted." He observed. Indeed charity was very fashionable these days. "Tis a verra fine gesture."** At least it sounded so to him.


But Anne's driver was refusing to take her? Douglas regarded the man thoughtfully. "I'm certain tha' he's merely concerned fer yer wellbeing Yer Grace; Bedlam isnae the nicest o' places an' wuid likely o'erwhelm a lairdy o' a less adventurous nature." He observed, thinking the give the man an out. "But th'comp'ny o' a gen'leman an' Life Guard shuid be more'n enou' tae see ye safe."*** He offered.


Of course, if the driver continued to be stubborn there were other ways to solve the problem. Douglas gave the man a level blue glance; they could do this the easy way or the hard way.



* "The pleasure's all mine, I assure you."

** "The charitable spirit of Christmas hasn't been forgotten. It's a very fine gesture."

*** "I'm certain that he's merely concerned for your wellbeing Your Grace; Bedlam isn't the nicest of places and would likely overwhelm a lady of a less adventurous nature. But the company of a gentleman and Life Guard should be more than enough to see you safe."

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Despite the fact that she was married to one gentleman and in love with another, Sophia couldn't help noticing how perfectly her tiny hand fit in his huge one, and as usual, her fingers tingled when his lips briefly brushed over them. His warmth seemed to permeate her body, and she no longer felt as cold as when she had first stepped out of the carriage. Her first instinct was to move closer to him, but she knew that would be improper and instead, she stepped over to Daemhan and began to stroke his long nose.


She caught Anne's warning look and sent her a silent message of understanding. Some kind of explanation had been in order, but she would never reveal that they planned to liberate the patients so that they could return to their families for the holidays. “I am so glad I ran into Her Grace,” she said. “I wanted to do something generous for others today, and she has given me that opportunity. We make an excellent team.”


Two high-born adventuresses who longed for excitement to alleviate the boredom of their lives, they both had husbands who left them to their own devices. Sophia could see Esteban giving similar instructions to the driver of her carriage if he had any suspicion that she was prone to mischief. And she would have been just as irate as the Duchess if her driver refused to take her wherever she wanted to go.


As she had hoped, Douglas offered to escort them. Now caressing the stallion's silky black mane, she smiled warmly at him. “How kind of you! No one will bother us if you come along.” Long ago, he had promised to always protect her, and she believed that promise still stood and that it also extended to Anne, whom he seemed quite friendly with. Hopefully, the stubborn carriage driver would realize that he had been beaten.

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Not for the first time Doug rose to assist her, Anne fairly beamed as both her friends made a show of unity for the cause (even if Douglas was a little in the dark to the true intentions).


"Err.. ahm... well if you accept responsibility to His Grace." The driver was more than happy to pass the buck on this one, though he acted properly relucant -- Doug did look all authoritative in his uniform, Her Grace would surely be safe. "Then, er, ah, certainly."


Despite herself Anne loosed a Whoop!

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