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Curiouser and Curiouser | 28/12, morning- Xmas 1677

Sophia de la Cerda

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"It would lose the effect for two, I think," the shopkeeper replied honestly. "The grand entrance would be the first time it is seen and only one lady can do such a thing." He did not think it a jewel meant to share, but it would remain to see if they would fight over buying it.


"As to the price, just the jewels of that size are very valuable, but you must think of the weight in the gold. It would be a gentleman's yearly income for such a piece and even quite the amount for a lord." He leaned in toward the pair some and said, "Five hundred."


He did not know who the blonde lady was married to, but it was quite possible a relative of the Earl of Basildon might have such a sum. Or perhaps the earl himself would be apt to buy it. The sum was fair for the richness and ostentation of the piece.


"That is the finest mirror I have," he said with a nod toward it. THe others did not compare, but it was mostly for examinations. There was nothing spectacular or particularly rare about it. "Any others are smaller or paneled."


It was at that time that the boy showed up with a good-sized cushioned box. Inside were gloriously detailed little toy soldiers. One first glance, there were different colors and banners for, presumably, different troops. There were little horses and ordnance. They were sturdy and very pristine. Either they had not been used very much or someone had been employed to repaint and keep them as fine as ever.


"There, as I said, mademoiselle, quite the exotic set. From the martyred King's reign from the style," he guessed.

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But Sophia only became more determined to buy the octopus, Nicolette efforts at putting her off were not working at all!


"Yes, you are correct." She sighed in agreement with the shopkeeper's comment upon the idea of sharing it. "It is a signature piece." Sharing would never do.


And Nicolette needed to pick her battles, better to let Sophia win this. Focus. (Hard to do when there was so much to admire). But Nicolette was really more interested in the miniatures she'd asked after, any how. She was certain that her intended recipient would enjoy them.


"Oooo..." her voice dropped to a whisper, as though to be kind to the tiny soldiers miniature ears, and she moved to pick one up and look at the painted face. She already knew that it was a set quite a desirable as the shrunken head, and that if she did not buy it she'd regret it every moment forwards. The metal was cold, but it was so small that it warmed to her hand quickly.


"I shall take these also." She held her breath, scared that Sophia would say she wanted them too, and suggest they shared. She did not want to share her little armies. Taking up another she looked at his face. Oh and there were little horses too. "Is there a ships captain?" Louis would understand, she was mostly sure. She'd tell her cousin how much she had saved him by not buying half the Octopus, and he'd be very pleased with her, certainly.

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The shopkeeper was right. The octopus would only make an impact the first time it was worn. Five hundred pounds seemed a high price to pay for one night of admiration. She remembered how Esteban had balked when she had suggested he donate that amount to charity. For half that sum, Sophia could have a custom brooch made that would be just as beautiful, but not as valuable. It would also fit her better than this one did, and would probably not be as heavy. Her back was starting to ache slightly from the weight of it.


Still, she wanted to make that grand impression. She looked up at the shopkeeper, a sly smile turning up the corners of her lips. “How many courtiers know of your shop?” she asked. “If you allow me to wear this brooch to the New Years Ball, I will tell everyone I see about the wonders that can be found here. You will get much more business than you have now. It would also give me the chance to make certain it is not too heavy for me before I buy it. I will definitely purchase the chess set and the fur.”


So there were no more mirrors and he didn't say anything about jewelry. Maybe this was the only piece he had. Sophia had no interest whatsoever in the miniature soldiers. After a quick glance, she left Nicolette to admire them, strolled over to another cabinet, and peered inside.


As an idea occurred to her, she threw a question over her shoulder. “Do you have anything with a mythological theme, perhaps something to do with Psyche and Eros? Or maybe Diana?”

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The shopkeeper blinked at Sophia's offer. She surely was a brazen girl.


"Ah, a fine offer, my lady, but then there is the same problem. It shall only have the proper impact once, so if you do not purchase it then, it would be worth far less. I am not sure an influx of noble business would offset such a thing. Few of such high personages go shopping to the actual shops."


Usually such nobles had people to do their purchasing or sent for the shop owner to bring things to them.


To the other lady, the owner nodded. She was keen and direct on her purchases. He relished in such easy sales.


"I do not know what a little ship captain would look like. The set is quite complete to a degree I haven't seen before, so I would think so."


To Sophia's request, he replied, "Greek in nature? A bust perhaps. I would have to have the lad look if you are interested in such a thing."

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Pausing in her admiration of the tiny figures, Nicci's eyes flared at Sophia's idea (it was rather clever, she was impressed!) But alas the shopkeeper was clever too. As the Frenchwoman had a new interest in business, she silently commended his insight, it was the sort that would keep him in business whatever his calibre of customer. Still. Sophia was a determined young lady, and so Nicolette's gaze sung back to the little blonde wondering to her counteroffer?


Meanwhile, the collection seemed more fabulous as she regarded it, although perhaps the shopkeepers comments did help. "It would be wrong to break up the set." She surmised, while discovering a reluctance to give it away to anyone. But what would Louis say? What would anyone say. It was not at all normal for Frenchwoman to take up collecting pre-restoration English armies. Nicolette inwardly wrestled with her very French concern over appearances (She was already going to hide the shrunken head somewhere.)


"Can I be delivered to me here." she provided her calling card, which stated her address at Somerset House. She'd figure out what to do with it later, for the certain fact was that she had to have this!

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The point he made was valid, but Sophia thought she would be able to use it to her advantage. "Those important personages who do not do their own shopping probably do not know your shop exists. If I model the brooch for you, they will send for you so that you can show them your wares in the privacy of their own homes. They may ask you to locate certain exotic items that they have have either heard of or seen before in the collections of their friends.


“I am known as one of the most fashionable ladies at court. The brooch will make a magnificent impression if I walk into the ballroom wearing it and you will be presented with new business opportunities because of it. As the wife of the Spanish Ambassador, I travel frequently and you may find that wealthy foreign nobles seek out your services as well. The brooch will be admired in every court my lord husband and I visit.”


There. She had revealed her identity. Hopefully, this shopkeeper had nothing against Spain.


Once she had removed the octopus, she handed it back to him. Nicolette seemed quite absorbed in the miniature army, but if she wanted to try it on, Sophia would help her with it.


When the shopkeeper mentioned busts, she turned away from the cabinet and walked back over to him. “No, not a bust. Do you have something more symbolic, like perhaps an arrow or a bow? Or anything unusual and intriguing that would appeal to a gentleman who enjoys mythology?"

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The Wife of the Spanish Ambassador! he thought. I cannot give away jewels to a Catholic let alone Spain!


Instead of his expression paralleling his thoughts, he said, "I fear I cannot, my lady, but I would be most happy to sell it to you. Surely, the Ambassador of Spain would find such a sum an easy expense for so beautiful a wife?" He blinked at her innocently.


As for Nicolette, the shopkeeper, of course, had method to his sales which were meant to entice. He talked up all his items if he felt a sale looming or if he felt he had someone on the line. The set was certainly not brimming with diamonds or cast all in solid gold. It was more than what most children had and finely kept for a toy meant to be used. And used by boys imagining war. That usually led to much damage and such marring was not reflected in what was before her.


"That can easily be arranged," the shopkeeper told her, almost sad that she had not been able to tell him what a little ship captain would look like. If he had a navy as well as an army in the set, it would have been nice for him to know! As it was, he thought it was just a finely done little army.


"An arrow?" Up went his eyebrow. He did not think about arrows or figures cast with them, what came to his mind was more suitable to a smith not a curiosity shop! "Do mean antique weaponry? I do not have any for archery." He did not fully understand what she was looking for so was having a hard time mentally searching his inventory for such a thing.

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Sophia tried similar tactic to that which had not worked the first time, while hoping it would have different results for her inclusion of title. Nicolette’s eyes swung back to the shopkeeper, almost feeling sorry for Sophia as he held firm. Sophia really had her heart set on the brooch, while Nicolette seemed to let go to hope of owning it easier (perhaps because she’d never truly thought it possible that she could own so many gems).


“Monsieur Shopkeeper?” Nicolette thought to try to help, it could not really hurt could it. “Can you perhaps keep the brooch aside for my Lady Friend, so she can talk to her husband about it. You understand such a purchase would need his approval first.” It might be easier for Sophia to sway Toldeo who she was sleeping with, than the Shopkeeper who was focussed on business. She gave a smile to Sophia, hoping the young lady did not take offense at her interjection.


Meanwhile, Nicolette realised she had forgotten to ask the price for the miniatures. Whoops. Still she was only pleased, and fused about looking through the box more. She had scant idea what an English Navy Captain looked like either, Francis was one, but she’d never seen him in a uniform. Perhaps this one here, with a fair hair would do? She lifted it to look closer at the face, musing of painting a tiny gold earring on it to amuse her lover.


Sophia seemed to want to buy something more still, while Nicolette looked towards the Shopkeeper and understanding he held some frustration. “Lady Toledo,” Nicolette spoke, and moved towards the blonde, “Perhaps there will be more to see on our next visit.” She gave a nod towards the Shopkeeper, “we need not over exert our purses all in one session.”

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Sophia wasn't really surprised that he wasn't willing to loan it to her for word-of-mouth advertising, but it had been worth a try. Perhaps when she was older, she would be more experienced at this kind of bargaining. One had to start somewhere, after all.


He did want to sell it to her though. A pretty blush blossomed across her cheeks at his compliment. Before she could say anything more, Nicolette came to her rescue, suggesting that the octopus be put on hold for her so she could speak to her husband about it.


She nodded gratefully to her friend and her eyes lit up as she looked up at the shopkeeper. “Can this be done? I do need to pass all major purchases by him for approval. He is a very busy man, and it may take some time before I can speak to him about it. Can you keep it for me until the end of the season?” By that time, Juan would be here and she knew that he would buy it for her.


“And would you be willing to lower the price if I still promise to advertise for you in every court I visit? My lord husband need not know of our arrangement. Let him think he is getting a bargain and he will speak highly of your establishment to everyone he knows.”


Now that Nicolette had found what she wanted, she seemed ready to go. Sophia was looking for one more special gift. “I wish to make another purchase while we are here.” She doubted the shopkeeper would object to another sale. “I am not looking for weapons. I am looking for an exotic gift for a discerning gentleman of quality. What do you have that you think such a gentleman would appreciate? Can you give me some options that I can choose from?”

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"Your ladyship asks me to put aside one of the most expensive pieces in the shop during the most popular time for purchasing extravagant gifts? I beg your pardon, but I cannot do such things."


She was not the first lady to tell him that her husband would surely come and purchase an item.


The husbands rarely followed through with it.


"I am sure he will act most swiftly if you speak of it most swiftly, for surely he is a husband who flatters such a beautiful wife."


As to the price, he said diplomatically, "I shall consider it." It was not as if such an item did not beg the question of where it came from, so it was likely to get word of mouth anyway.


"There are many things which are exotic enough for any gentleman of quality. No doubt you have perused a great number just right here. I keep my best items where they are easily viewed, my lady. Unless they are too large for such a purpose, though I do not think your lord husband interested in a ship's bell or the like." For some reason he assumed the gift was for her husband. It could have equally been for a brother or a father. She was young enough for even a grandfather.


"You should go to Baselard's if you wish a fine gift for a gentleman of first quality. Fine lords appreciate the finest of weaponry. For the novel which you do not see here, perhaps Lokum and Prewitt?" He was affiliated with that shop. In fact, they were relations. As well as with the Lokums attached to The Golden Junk, but that was not a story for ladies, no matter the coin involved.

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Was Nicolette being selfish? For now she'd made a purchase she did indeed feel ready to move on with her day.


She fell hush as the Ambassadors wife continued, the bid to put the item on hold was refused, the explanation did make sense. In a weeks time the season would be over, and the frivolus purses in london would leave.

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Sophia had not really expected that the shopkeeper would hold the octopus brooch for her, but it had been worth a try. At least he was willing to negotiate on the price. She rather doubted that anyone would buy it before the end of the year, and if she waited until the last day of the season, she might get a better bargain on it. Surely Juan would be here by then.


And if he did sell it, she could have a less expensive replica made, one that fit her figure better. She had memorized its form and where the jewels were located. As soon as she got home, she would draw before she forgot all the details.


She had never heard of the stores that he mentioned, but she memorized those too. “In truth, I have only seen a few items so far, the ones in that cabinet over there.” She waved toward it with one slender hand. “Will you show me some of the exotic things a gentleman might like?” Certainly, he wouldn't object to her request, since it would most likely lead to another sale.


Leaning toward him, she lowered her lyrical voice. Nicolette could probably still hear her. “And would you happen to have any banned books of erotic poetry? I am rather fond of love poems."

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The gentleman leaned forward just a bit as well, to play along. Her lean gave him a nice view, but it might take more than that to distract his mind from the task of business.


"Only the one which I pointed out earlier, my lady," he said. The book of bawdy things he had already described as something a gentleman might like. It was surely not something for a more refined gentleman, but definitely for a libertine one.


"The fur and chess set are my best examples of such things which you have already voice your desire to purchase," he reminded.


(OOC - the 28th has been in closing up for quite awhile, so we really do need to wrap up. There's plenty of time before the end of the season to come again or to attend one of the other shops <3 )

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Sophia was too new to flirtation to attempt to entice a shopkeeper into a sale by using her feminine wiles. She felt annoyed when his eyes dropped to her cleavage, for she had given him a free shot when he was offering her little in return. Here was a wealthy young lady eager to part with her money and he said he had nothing more to show her. She felt cheated. Nicolette had found what she was looking for, and while the young Baroness did intend to purchase the chess set and the fur, she was searching for other gifts as well, all of which she needed to acquire before New Year's Day.


She didn't think that the books they had been shown would interest Lord Chatham. Perhaps she could find him a gift somewhere else. Now that she thought of it, Lokum and Prewitt was the shop where she had bought the spices she often sprinkled on her food.* Maybe they would have interesting items that would appeal to her friends. She also needed to go to the jewelers, for the perfect gift for the one-eyed Earl had just popped into her mind.


“Very well,” Sophia said with a sigh. “May my friend and I set up accounts with you?” She glanced over at Nicolette, for they had discussed accounts before the shopkeeper had emerged from the back of the shop.



*Sophia went there in this thread.

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Nicolette knew Sophia well enough to tell she was disappointed. It was the impatience youth, and perhaps too her spoiled upbringing that made her want more&more to add to her ever growing pile of luxurious things. Nicolette had seen a great deal of that manner at court in France, why Versailles itself was a testament to that thinking. She was able to accept that that was simply how wealthy families were, she was almost pleased that she'd been raised frugally. Those few precious items that she possessed meant so much more to her for that very reason, Nicolette thus considered her trinkets as invaluable. Wasn’t that a better way to be? (Or so the financially stricken girl did tell herself.)


"If they can be delivered to my Cousins house, he will manage payment." she said for her own part, she would prefer to speak of money to her cousin, rather than the merchant (whom she'd so far managed to avoid talk of figures with at all, and she hoped to keep it that way.)

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"Ladies are not generally the ones which set up such things, my lady," the owner replied. Legally he would not be entitled to payment if there was no receipt with the impression of a seal ring or some paper which ensured payment in some fashion.


"But I can have them delivered and signed or paid when they arrived as the mademoiselle has asked*," he added. They could still purchase what they liked, but his delivery boy would not be able to leave it without something which would set up the promise of payment. Such was the way the world of merchants worked. This was a world of concretes.


"They can be delivered on the morning of the 30th if that suits you ladies?"


(OOC - I'm not going to cut B out of this picture since he runs Toledo (& Louis) )

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Nothing seemed to be going her way this morning. Sophia didn't think she would ever understand why married ladies were not able to take part in business transactions. She had encountered this problem the first time when she had tried to make a donation in her husband's name at Church and was refused. Now she wasn't even allowed to open her own account.


If Esteban didn't let her have one, she was sure that Juan would open one for her when he returned to England, if she decided to shop at the Curiosity Shop again. She had never met a shopkeeper who refused to show his merchandise to someone who was enthusiastic about purchasing more of his wares. It made no sense, unless he had something against Spaniards. Maybe she shouldn't have told him who she was.


He may have lost a very generous customer because of his (perceived) attitude towards her.


“For me, the morning of the 31st will be better.” Esteban was very rarely home during the day, but she didn't want to take any chances, since the chess set and fur were for him and she wanted to surprise him with them. “The chess set is a gift for my lord husband, so please have it delivered directly to me. I will pay in full when it arrives. I'm sure he will be so delighted with it that he will open an account for me as soon as he has time."

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Ardently, "Merci beaucoup." Nicolette gushed, and moving forward she thought to squeeze the man's hand with gratitude. It was a tad demonstrative really, but then Nicci often was. "May I take this one right now?" she asked of the little figure she'd last been admiring. She was of the thought to give it to Francis later that day, well night really.


While it had not gone quite to the plan that Sophia had had, where the German girl would haggle down the price like her Papa had, Nicolette never the less thought it had been a very successful expedition. She was all smiles, hoping that Sophia would be cheered by them too, as she bade the man farewell and with hitch of skirts hopped her way back over slush-puddles to the carriage.


"You must see now why I love that shop so much." she expressed once they were back at the carriage.




OOC: thanks so much one and all for such a fun thread

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"Certainly," the shopkeeper replied of the one tiny figurine. In such a box it would hardly be missed if anything went awry.


"Then the 31st it shall be, my lady," he replied. "Enjoy your day."


Once they were gone he wrote down the deliveries in his ledger so that he could draw up papers for payment for the various lords involved. If the gentlemen did, indeed, extend credit for their ladies he would be happy to sell to them extravagantly.


(Fin )

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Sophia was surprised that the shopkeeper agreed to let Nicolette keep one of the miniature figures before it was paid for. She doubted he would have allowed it if the request had come from her. He seemed more attentive to the Frenchwoman for some reason. If she had asked him to show her things that would dazzle a gentleman, he probably would have gone out of his way to do so. But it seemed to the young Baroness that he had pushed her away, even at the expense of more sales.


He didn't protest at delivering her purchases on the 31st. “Remember have it delivered directly to me. I do not want to spoil my lord husband's surprise.” She had fifty pounds with her, and was certain that she could cajole Esteban out of the rest of it when she spoke to him later than day.* Otherwise, she would take it out of the redecorating fund.


Nicolette was certainly happy, skipping over puddles on her way to the carriage. Sophia followed without much enthusiasm and didn't speak until she was settled on one of the cushioned seats inside. She peered out the window at the front of the store. The next time she stepped through its doors, she would make certain that Juan was with her. The shopkeeper would not neglect her then.


It had not been a wasted trip, though. She had found the perfect Christmas gift for Esteban, just nothing for anyone else. “Yes,” she said quietly, smiling at her friend's enthusiasm. “It is a fascinating place. Thank you for showing it to me. I would never have known of its existence if not for you.”


*She did cajole it out of him here, so she has the entire amount in cash.



OOC: Thanks to you both for an interesting thread!

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