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The House of Hesse | 28th 2ish- Xmas 1677

Nicolette Vauquelin

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Juliana of Hesse-Eschwege had rented a three-story house in Pall Mall for the duration of her stay in London. It was rather plain on the outside, made of red brick with green trim around the oriole windows and a green door with a stained glass window at the top. On the door was a bronze door knocker in the shape of a circular vine with a rose in the center. Hedges trimmed the drive leading up to the entrance and several lovely old trees decorated the lawn. Everything was covered in snow now, as beautiful in the winter as it was in the summer.


Inside, the décor was fashionable and lavish, and it had been the lord's bedroom with its enormous carved and gilded bed that had prompted Juliana to rent the house. Hung with crimson, green, and gold silk curtains, it was utterly decadent and appealed to the pretend Princess's hedonistic nature. The rest of the furnishings were opulent as well, including a chase lounge upholstered in multi-colored silk tapestry that she couldn't wait to try out. There was even a Venetian glass mirror, which would allow whomever sat … or cavorted … on the lounge to watch their reflections. An adjoining room held a large bathtub and a cupboard full of fluffy towels and scented oils.




Nicolette was terribly interested in her fellow European.


Juliana had arrived to London without any fanfare which seemed quite unlike her stock... and although the house she'd taken was of the finest address and impressive indeed, her cousin (who knew of such things) said it was rented. Still, a woman with independence and any manner of means was something highly interesting to this Frenchwoman who could of yet only dream of being the same.


Her borrowed maid Daisy knocked on the door a little awkwardly, due to the boxed gift she was holding carefully - meanwhile fur clad Nicolette tipped her head and looked up at the grand house. A whole three stories high, and for just one woman. Loosing an envious sigh she wondered if one day that might be she?

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Juliana didn't have the slightest idea how Mademoiselle Vauquelin knew of her existence, much less why she wanted to meet her. She had only seen the pretty brunette twice: once at the opera when Lord Maldon pointed her out along with her handsome cousin, and again at the ball when she had been named the Lady of Misrule. Maybe she thought they should become better acquainted because Sweden was allied with France, or perhaps her motives were more personal.


A butler answered the door and let Nicolette and Daisy inside, and would take Nicci's coat if she wished it. Music could be heard in the hallway, and it grew louder as he led them into a moderately-sized room that was decorated in mauve and cream. Although a fire burned in the hearth against the far wall, the room might appear chilly to someone not accustomed to cold temperatures. Having lived in Sweden most of her life, Juliana was most comfortable when it wasn't unreasonably warm.


There was a polished wooden table with beautifully carved legs sitting on a mauve and cream carpet by the window. Although there were four matching chairs with mauve and cream upholstery, only two sat beside the table now. The other two had been moved over by a wall, behind a piano that sat in the center of the room. There was a couch in front of the fireplace and other smaller tables scattered around the room that held either vases of flowers or sculptures.


Dressed in a silk gown of deep fuchsia, amber, and green, the pretend Princess sat behind the piano, playing a complicated tune. When the butler announced her guest, she stood up and crossed over to the door to greet her guest. “You must be Mademoiselle Vauquelin,” she said with a smile. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”

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It was a very fine house. Nicolette's instincts told her it would distinctly appeal to a socialite, and then the expanse of the room she was then seen to did not prove her wrong. Highly polished floors, and furniture pressed back against the walls as though it would be a ballroom, as though guests might be swirling about the room to the music. Music. Which now stopped - looking beyond the piano Nicolette saw the lady of the house.


The woman was dressed exquisitely in a combination of colours that was far from naive. Passing the servant her fur, Nicolette approached and dipped into a curtsy, "Your Highness*. Thank you for seeing me utterly un-introduced." For her part she was wearing a checkered dress of lavender and cream, trimmed with beige pleating at neckline and cuffs, with a broad purple ribbon tied about her trim waist and a finer one ornamenting her wrist in a bow. Her gleaming brunette locks were wound up high with artfully crafted curls tumbling here and there and trimmed with purple ribbon rosettes.


It had been Lord Maldon who had piqued Nicolette's interest in the Swedish woman, though that had been oh however many days ago now, and Nicolette could barely recall what it was he'd exactly said. It had been something like he wished to know Nicolette's impression of Juliana, though he'd not quite explained why. It did not take much to encourage Nicci to meet someone of high rank.


"You play very well, it makes me feel like dancing and in a room so well prepared for it." Nicolette smiled warmly, "Was that a tune from your home?" For the moment having quite forgotten her awkwardly forgotten servant holding gift box near the door.



* OOC: I googled, and it seems as though members of the royal family in her area are to be addressed this way, I shall leave it to Julia to correct Nicci if she wants to.

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“I thank you for making an overture of friendship. I know very few people in London, and most of my current acquaintances are gentlemen. I have missed the company of other women. I didn't being any of my ladies-in-waiting with me. They preferred to stay in Sweden with their families for Christmas, and I can hardly blame them for that.” Juliana didn't actually have any ladies-in-waiting. She'd had a few when she had been betrothed to her cousin,the King of Sweden, but after the scandal she had caused, she had been packed off to the country in disgrace.


The butler took Mistress Vauquelin's coat and the pretend princess's gaze flickered over her gown and then moved up to her face. She really was quite beautiful, and Juliana wondered what it would feel like to run her hands through those gorgeous brown curls. Wishful thinking, she supposed. She rather doubted that the Frenchwoman was attracted to other women. Which was perhaps fortunate, for she wished to savor the delights she had experienced last night with Lord Chatham before indulging her desires again.


“Thank you,” she replied, looking toward the piano. It belonged to the house and was not as expensive and ornate as her own, but at least it was in tune. “I have been playing since I was a child. It is the only artistic talent I possess. I can't remember the name of the composer, but he is or was German. It's rather challenging, which is why I like to play it.”

Her gaze traveled around the room. “This room is not big enough to dance in, but the house does have a small ballroom. This is one of my drawing rooms. The other one is quite a bit larger.”


Juliana walked to the table, which was covered with a mauve tablecloth with cream lace around the edges. “Please come in and sit down." She nodded to a servant standing by the wall and he disappeared through the door. “Tea will be served shortly.”

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She liked being thanked for the contact, Nicolette did not recall anyone ever saying that to her before. The admission of aloneness was brave of Juliana, and warming. "Oh too bad, but then ladies in waiting can be such a chore." she gave a grin of the but-what-would-I-know jest.


"Everyone needs to have a pleasure that is simply for joys sake." Mlle Vauquelin replied, approaching the divan and settling. She was aware of receiving the once over, and sensed also gaining the others approval. And why not, this was one of her three new day dresses afforded her from Lord Basildon, and, and she' had take extra care when dressing that morning.


But as much as Nicolette aspired to be successful one day, hearing of further drawing rooms, and an actual ball room, all at the disposal of one dainty lady was... hard to get her head around. "I suppose it still seem small to you, after living in a palace."


Nicolette blinked.


"But you are here upon an English adventure. I hope that you shall love it quite as much as I do, it is so different to what we are used to in Europe. The courtiers of Whitehall are quite liberal, and the Gentlemen, oo la la!" for point Nicolette flicked open her fan and fanned her cheeks as she gave a gay laugh.

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“It is nice not to be responsible for anyone but myself for once,” Juliana agreed. Her former ladies-in-waiting had been annoying occasionally. They had gone everywhere with her, and even though she had not known the taste of freedom then, she had unconsciously craved it. She had found ways to sneak away and indulge in all sorts of forbidden adventures and her behavior was certainly not befitting of a future Queen. Then again, she had found her cousin boring and had never wanted to spend the rest of her life at his side. Variety was the spice of life. The position of Queen had seemed like a death sentence instead of a privilege.


Juliana sat down across from her guest. She was close to her own age and also unmarried. Perhaps they were similar in nature and Nicolette, too, would rather be free than to shackle herself to a gentleman simply because it was expected of her. The tall blonde was not against marriage, but if she did decide to settle down, she wanted it to be with a man with whom she would be compatible. Juliana wasn't looking for love and did not believe that such an emotion existed. Those ladies who thought they were in love were just deluding themselves.


“And what do you like to do for pleasure?” she asked. Juliana knew next to nothing about the pretty Frenchwoman and was determined that by the end of their visit, she would know more about her than Nicolette knew about Juliana.


“I find it cozy, actually,” she said about the house she had rented. Her residence in Sweden had been large and sprawling but it was so far away from the excitement of court. “Adventure is exactly why I decided to visit London. I heard so much about it in Sweden.”


Juliana laughed when Nicolette fanned herself. “I know what you mean. So far, I have found the gentlemen both handsome and … accommodating. So how long have you been in England, Mademoiselle Vauquelin? Are you just visiting as I am or has it become your home?"

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It was an interesting perspective. Though Nicolette had joked of it, she'd not considered that a cluster of attendants might be an obligation or even a duty. She met Juliana's eyes as the Lady stated as much, and tipped her head falling silent. These ladies of high rank had such different lives.


“I... like to collect cuttings." Nicolette answered when the question was turned. It seemed rather humble in compare. Not 'seemed'. It was humble. "When I was a little girl, My Grampere gave me a copy of Culpeper's Herbal, and it became my mission to collect a cutting of every plant, and press it between it's pages." she revealed, hoping it sounded a bit more elaborate than it really was. She gave a little shrug of it, it did not really matter if others scorned, it was her hobby, her happiness.


Cosy? Nicolette's gaze took in the room, and intent to maintaining her air of cheer claimed, "If this is cosy, you ought to see our loft in Paris!" two rooms which her mother and she had shared.


"You are already welcomed to England then!" Juliana implied an interlude, and Nicolette eyes danced of it. "So I discover you hardly have any need for a partner in adventuring Whitehall." which had been what she'd thought to offer when she'd first written to Juliana. It would have been a fine thing to act as an escort for an actual princess. But Juliana had been glad to be rid of ladies in waiting, and was accomplished enough to find admirers on her own. Ah well, it had been a good idea, Nicolette thought.


"Yes I am staying with my Cousin, the Earl Basildon. He has been very good to me, despite my poor timing. French relatives is not a la mode. But I rather doubt anyone would dare say as much to him." she smiled, "But German. You are the very height of fashion, Your Highness. Why I have heard that any number of English ladies are even studying the language, upon account of the New Queen. You are known to her I expect?"

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Juliana had known a noblewoman in Sweden who had 'collected' herbs. Her husband had dropped dead of unknown causes one evening at court. She was not one to judge, but she believed that the woman's hobby was related to her husband's convenient demise, leaving her free to marry a wealthier man. “It sounds like an interesting hobby. I have heard of this Culpeper and his book. Supposedly, it tells you how to cure illnesses with herbs. Have you tried anything like that or do you just collect the cuttings?”


Mistress Vauquelin must have come from humble beginnings if her rooms in Paris had been smaller than this drawing room. Or maybe all residences in Paris were modest, except for Versailles, of course. Juliana had never been to France, but she was thinking of visiting when she got tired of England. She wasn't going back to Sweden unless she had to.


Juliana had been welcomed to London by several courtiers, but that didn't mean she wasn't interested in meeting more. Could it be that Nicolette was interested in taking lovers of the female persuasion? Juliana smiled encouragingly. “I am usually a good judge of people and I thought you might share my love of excitement and new experiences. If you were the demure type, you would not have asked to meet me. Are you are offering your services to show me what adventures can be found in London?"


She mentioned her cousin then, that handsome fellow she had seen at the ball. Juliana wondered how slim her chances were of cavorting with both of them at the same time. “Are they?” She was surprised that English women wanted to learn German. It was a difficult language to master. “Her Majesty might know who I am but we have not yet formally met.”


The tea arrived, along with an assortment of English sweets. Juliana had wanted to immerse herself in the culture and had not brought her Swedish chef along with her. She poured the tea herself from a pretty porcelain teapot and handed one of the delicate cups to Nicolette. “So tell me about your cousin. I have heard that he is one of the rising stars at court.”

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Nicolette smiled, not answering of that*. Her eyes glittering as she made her perceptions of the lady. She was beginning to understand why John had been curious to Nicci's opinion on her, she wondered if he'd noticed the same things of the Juliana as she now did.


"I too am a good judge of character." Nicci replied, "And in you a perceive a woman with many secrets, mmm?" her eyebrow arched, rosy lips broadened in a smile, "a beautifully covered book that keeps itself closed."


"But what adventure shall you enjoy I wonder -- what have your revealed of yourself to me?" Nicci accepted the cup and took a sip of the english tea, and resumed, "You are plainly interested in adventuring upon my cousin, but alas, I hate to share."


Nicci tittered of that.





* as you know the apothecary subject is currently being discussed, so I don't want to do into that topic currently until something is resolved, I appreciate your understanding with this IC necessity.

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It was true that Juliana didn't like to talk much about herself, but that was because appearing mysterious was alluring. The scandal she had caused in Sweden wasn't exactly a secret, although she doubted that anyone in England knew about it. She wouldn't deny it if someone asked her about it. Yet she wouldn't reveal her outrageous behavior voluntarily, so the Frenchwoman's assessment of her demeanor was right on target. “Perhaps,” she said, smiling enigmatically. “But any book can be opened and read with a little creativity.”


A golden eyebrow rose slightly when Nicolette practically admitted that she was sleeping with her cousin, and she shrugged nonchalantly. “I have no designs upon your cousin. I am simply curious about him. He is quite handsome and I can see why you want to keep him for yourself."


After taking a sip of tea, she leaned forward conspiratorially. “Does his wife know of your relationship? Or is it one of those secrets locked away behind the lovely cover of your own book? How many delights, I wonder, are concealed between its pages?”

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Mysterious? No that was not how Juliana came off, Nicolette felt her to be aloof, distrusting and interrogative.


"I do not think that entirely true," Nicolette gave a sigh. Thus far she'd made efforts to reach out in friendship, initiating contact, complimenting her music and house, then she'd begun telling the Princess about herself, expecting her to share of herself also.


"I admit, I had hoped we might become friends, both of us foreign in a strange land. My Friend Lord Maldon encouraged me to meet you. But. Well I can see that you do not want for closeness."


"You of course know that the natural way to grow a friendship is to reciprocate in conversation. When I tell you a little of my childhood, it is natural, if one is friendly, to say something of their childhood too. When one says something of where they used to live, then in overture of friendship you would reveal something of where you used to live too."


"But this." Nicolette turned her hand palm out, is not that. You would turn the pages of my book, wanting me to reveal details not just of myself but also of my family. Meanwhile you keep your own book locked up." she gave a small shrug. "That is perfectly within your right to do. But, well, I shall leave you to your piano now perhaps."


Nicolette arose


"Do not twist my words." Juliana was even malicious of it. "I am jealous of my cousin yes, I will not tell you his secrets, I value his kindness too much for that."


"Unlike you, I do not have untold wealth behind me. Unlike you I arrived in England penniless. Lord and Lady Basildon took me, in gave me shelter and their protection. I shall not betray either of them by telling details of the rise of his influence at court. If you really want to know those things, then you can ask him yourself. Though after I have told him your threat just now, I doubt he shall want to say much."


"Hmm... I think I understand why you left your home now." Julian had drawn out her daggers fast, all of that to protect any hint of what had happened in her past. It was a curious defensiveness, only likely in someone with many skeletons in the closet. "But fret not, I have far to many cheery distractions. I shall not tell anyone you flee scandal, unless you force my hand."

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Juliana was surprised by Nicolette's outburst. She had thought she was being friendly and that the Frenchwoman had shared a confidence with her by disclosing that she and her cousin were lovers. That was what she believed she had meant by not wanting to share him.


The pretend princess had only asked about Lord Basildon because Mistress Vauquelin had mentioned him. She was no more attracted to him than she was to Nicolette or the countless other good-looking ladies and gentlemen she had seen at court, and she certainly didn't intend to seduce him. Seduction, in the world according to Juliana, should be mutual, and she rarely came on to anyone who didn't show interest in her first.


Other women were far more difficult to understand than men. She had hoped that she and Nicolette could become friends ... or maybe more ... but the beautiful brunette was either blinded by jealousy or the French had specific ideas on how to get to know each other. Juliana would answer questions truthfully (but vaguely) if asked, but she wasn't accustomed to volunteering information. Mistress Vauquelin had not asked her about her childhood or where she had lived previously.


At least now she knew how Nicolette had learned of her. Lord Maldon. He had been the first person she had met in England and had been kind and pleasant to her at the opera. For his sake, she would attempt to turn this unfortunate situation around. If the Frenchwoman had a problem with her, she could join the club, take a number, and get in line, but she didn't want the charming Earl to suffer because he had suggested that the two ladies should become acquainted.


Juliana leaned back in her chair, nonchalant and relaxed. “Like I said before, I do not fancy your cousin. Nor did I threaten you in any way.” Nicolette had threatened her, but she would let that slide. Juliana was not running away from an old scandal. She would rather run into a new one. Not giving a damn about one's reputation had its advantages.

“I was curious, nothing more. If I have twisted your words, you have also twisted mine.


“If you want to know something about me, all you have to do is ask. I'm German, but spent most of my life in Sweden. I attended court there for many years and then decided to travel and see more of the world. There is not much more to my story than that.”


She smiled warmly. “So you know Lord Maldon as well. I met him at the opera and we sat together. He is one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with. He didn't even know me and he gave me a gift …. a nutcracker from my homeland … to welcome me to England.”

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If Juliana knew the tightrope of plots that Nicolette currently tread across, the tension within her, even the paranoia, might not surprise quite so much. "Yes I study the herbal lore, the remedies, and the... the many helps." Nicolette replied cautiously of Juliana's question.


Wound like a spring of this other topic, Nicolette hardly could believe the claim of innocence. Was I wrong? "I owe my Cousins everything, without them I am naught." she replied of her passionate defense of Louis's marriage. She would rather anything but put that at risk, she knew how much he loved Lisa. And yes, there was likely a whole lot of guilt within her, because she'd pushed him and pushed.


"That is not your story." Nicolette replied, wind sliding from her sails, her shoulders dropping, "that is the skeleton that a story, that a life is draped around. I did not want to see your bones, but the colourful tapestries, the silks and velvets that you've drawn to yourself. But it is hardly any matter now."


Because she'd gotten so upset, and then now, forlorn of her accusations that might have been premature, what chance of a friendship was there now? She was stood. Poised to leave.


"Lord Maldon is one of the kindest people I know." at least of John they could both agree. He'd given the Princess a gift. A gift? Nicolette remembered her own maid, and the gift there held.


Motioning her servant closer, Nicolette took the box and passed it to Juliana. Ity was all terribly uncomfortable, and why was it, that she was thinking about Lord Kingston right now? And of the King, who... whom she had ruined herself for and who might not want her after all of that. And Louis. Louis who might have risked his marriage, but not at hsi fault, no, but at hers. And Lisa, who was always so kind, giving her her old dresses, and lending her jewelry.


"It is not so fine as a nutcracker, but, I made this for you." it was a tea blend of raspberry, nettle and dandilion, the label of the box explained it was beneficial for womens health.

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Mademoiselle Vauquelin was quite protective of her cousins. Juliana wondered now if she had jumped to conclusions about their affair. Maybe the other woman had just been jesting when she said she didn't like to share. She had implied that Juliana had designs on the handsome Earl. Maybe Nicolette was afraid that she would break up their marriage. She should never have asked about him. How could she have known how sensitive and defensive the Frenchwoman was about the relatives who had taken her in?


Since Nicolette had spoken about him, Juliana had thought she liked talking about her family. Most people did. If the tall blonde wanted to satisfy her curiosity, she was sure many courtiers would be willing to tell her whatever she wanted to know. The trick would be separating truth from fiction.


As for Nicolette mentioning her inquiries to him, Juliana thought that he would be flattered that a Princess (unless he knew she was faking it) had shown a casual interest in his rise at court. She didn't have many moral standards, but she didn't seduce married men. However, she rarely refused when they seduced her. The father of her son had been married and she had led him on a merry chase before agreeing to sleep with him.


“All that you have told me about yourself is that you came from France and you live with your cousins. So far, I have revealed more about my life than you have about yours. I don't mind trading stories, but you have to be willing to do the same. That was why I asked about your cousin, to find out more about your life. If you had told me about him, I would have spoken about my own family.”


A genuine smile turned up the corners of her lips at Nicolette's assessment of Lord Maldon. “He is very kind and he is acquainted with some of my distant relatives. I have not seen him since the opera but I hope our paths will cross again.” Juliana wanted to ask how well Nicci knew him, but she didn't want her to think she had designs on him too.


A golden eyebrow rose when the Frenchwoman took a box from her maid and handed it to her. First she blew up at her and now she gave her a gift. Maybe she had realized that Juliana was simply trying to be friendly? “Thank you, or tack as we say in Swedish.” She read the label and then met her guest's eyes. “It must be fascinating to be able to make your own cures and remedies. What exactly does this tea do? Will it prevent me from getting sick, does it have a calming effect, or does it do something else?”

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Nicolette bit her tonge from retorting. Yes Juliana had told her some key points after Nicolette had her out burst which had figuratively forced the Princess to say something about herself. That hardly counted in the bid for a conversation of mutual sharing that Nicolette described. But the Princess could not see herself at fault, which was a normal enough thing for people of high rank. The lower your rank, the more you had to take the blame for - and so she credited Nicci as being the one who was secretive and uptight.


There was no point arguing, it was already over.


"He is very connected." Nicolette was hardly surprised to hear that John claimed to be a relative of the Princesses. He was a bit like Louise when it came to that sort of thing, Louise claimed being related to everyone who was anyone in France, and wore mourning when any of their dignitaries died. Perhaps she and he really were related to everyone, and thus were better than everyone else. Just quietly, Nicolette liked John far more when he was not going on about his entitlements - though perhaps that was only because she had none.


Having prepared the gift, Nicolette thought she ought to give it. The maid had been stood there holding it all this time.


"It is like a tonic, good for smoothing the cycle, easing cramps and softening mood too yes. It is good for all ladies." she thought to add, incase the other thought it was some sort of insult. Though she was not french, so perhaps she would not be that distrusting. "If you take it for a little time, you shall soon know if it agrees with you."


Nicolette gave a small smile to Daisy, she'd presented the gift to the Princess very nicely (her borrowed maid had been nervous of having to do that, and looked a might relieved now it was over with.)


Holding a pleasant expression, Nicolette expected to be excused now.

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Juliana was quite arrogant and a bit vain as well. If she had been meek and humble, she would never have called herself a princess. Her mother had been a princess and her grandfather had been a king, so in her eyes, she was royalty.


She was also quick to find faults in others while ignoring her own. And like most Germans, she was blunt, and her straightforwardness often came with a sharp edge. That said, she was doing her best to befriend this woman who seemed to bristle at everything she said. She was beginning to rethink her plans of visiting France when she got tired of England.


“Lord Maldon is an absolute dear, and I think one reason he knows so many people is because he genuinely cares about them. It is impossible not to like him.”


The tea was greatly appreciated. “I will try it later today,” she said. “If it helps cramps, then I will be eternally grateful. The ones I have are so painful that they sometimes keep me in bed for days at a time.” Juliana had never spoken of her personal hell to anyone before. “Would you know of anything else that might help them?”


She waved her hand toward Nicolette's recently vacated chair, inviting her to sit back down and finish her tea.

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Despite it all, it seemed Juliana wanted her to remain. Nicolette supposed she was lonely. It was easy to befriend men, a flirtatious smile and bat of lashes was near all it took, Nicci knew. To try win the affection of ones own sex required an entirely different skill set.


Sitting once more, Nicolette put a smile on it while retaining her discovered reserve. "I wish he could overhear your saying that, he'd blush of it surely, but be so happy never the less."


"Truly?" surprisingly a female tonic was needed by the Princess, who then spoke of her complaint being critical. "Then perhaps take the tea thrice a day, there can be no understating the benefits of raspberry leaf for such things." Nicci assured. Perhaps the Princesses mood could be explained by her distressed cycle? Compassion tugged at Nicolette as she considered this.


"Perhaps with your astrology I can recommend you something more specific." she asked. No doubt Juliana knew of the importance of astrology with medicine. The Culpeper, Nicolette's primary reference, was adherent to such medicine.

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Mistress Vauquelin sat back down. “He would?” Juliana asked, her blue eyes twinkling merrily. Their earlier confrontation seemed to be forgotten, even though it wasn't and probably never would be. “Then perhaps I shall tell him. I think he would look adorable with a blush on his cheeks. I wouldn't want to embarrass him, though.”


She lifted her cup of tea and sipped it. Her courses weren't due for another two weeks, but the cramps usually started a few days earlier. “Should I wait until the cramps start to take it, or will it help prevent them if I use it in advance?” If the tea worked, she might need more of it later. Juliana knew better than to offer to pay a noble for their services. It was insulting. However, she didn't mind paying with either money or favors if a suggestion was made.


The pretend princess only partially understood the connection between medicine and astrology. Personally, she had never been to an astrologer, even though some of her friends consulted them for almost everything, including predicting the future. “What do you need to know?” she asked Nicolette. “I'm afraid I understand as little about astrology as I do about herbs.”

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"I think he secretly enjoys it, or even not so secretly." Nicolette spoke of John, with a slow blink of lifes improbabilities. Until very recently she'd imagined something possible, and then Francis had explained to her how it was not, well not about Lord Maldon in particular, just as he'd not said Lord Dundarg or Lord Chatham in particular either. Flirting though, that was still just fine.


Nicci's quiet gaze slid back to Juliana, "When I first met Lord Maldon he was stood in a palace garden, studying the bark of a tree. When most people new to Court would be walking the halls with wonder, he was more a-marvel with how a trees branches might be pruned. I think it says something of the man, he is particularly unique."


"Start taking the tea today, but yes increase how often you take it as your courses near being due. The first month there may be just a little improvement, but the second month your suffering should be greatly reduced." Nicci had her own experiance with this which give her greater strength of voice. "You can then ease back how much you use until you find the minimum you need to be effective. La, I know! It is a bother sometimes being a woman. But I far rather our role even with it's inconveniences, than the lot of a gentleman."


"Tell me of your date of birth, and the time, and I shall do my research and recommendations for you based upon that."

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“All gentlemen love praise, whether they admit it or not.” Juliana often used that fact to her advantage when she met a man she fancied. A little flattery … sincere or otherwise … went a long way. “I will tell him then.”


It did seem a bit strange that anyone who was new to court would be studying trees instead of enjoying the many activities available to courtiers. “He's very unique,” she agreed. “I've never known anyone else to give a gift to a complete stranger. I take it that he is interested in gardening?”


She listened attentively to Nicolette's instructions, committing them to memory. If this tea helped, even a little bit, she would be forever grateful. “I will take some this evening,” she promised, “or is it better to drink it during the day?”


The Frenchwoman confessed that she would rather be a woman than a man, and Juliana smiled. “When I was younger, I used to wish I had been born a boy. They were allowed to fight and hunt while I was stuck inside doing needlework. Men also have so much more freedom when they're grow up. They can travel and see the world before they are expected to marry. No one thinks ill of them if they are unfaithful to their wives. It's almost expected for a gentleman to take a mistress.”


But …” Her smile broadened. “I found out how to get all those things for myself.” Juliana had ruined her reputation in the process and caused a scandal, but she didn't regret anything she had done, except giving birth in a carriage. She wished her son could have waited until she got back to the palace.


“I was born on the 14th of May in 1652. All I know about the time of my birth was that it was sometime during the morning.”

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“And when he blushes, shall you laugh and tell him I told you to tell him? Or shall that be our secret?" Nicolette asked, the topic light and unimportant really, filling the air with chatter that meant so very little. Perhaps they would find affinity in other things. Perhaps not. It did not really matter.


“Yes. I am not very sure how his interest is different to a common gardner, for he is an Earl, so gardening is beneath him. Still, it seems to be what he really loves. Though he distracts with many things, I think it is to gardens that his thoughts return to when the world quietens. We all have our pet topics that our minds happily cradle." she gave a small smile of this truth.


"Day or night, the time does not matter. I would think day time, for it is such a nuisance to get up in the middle of the night with need to piddle." Nicolette talked of such things with a frankness that came from fluency in medicinal maters.


"Hmm." Nicolette gave a small shrug of Juliana's outlook. "So how have you managed all the benefits of a man, and might I guess, avoided all of the pitfalls?' Nicolette asked.


The birth date was committed to memory, "I shall write to you with my findings." said she.

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“I think we should keep it a secret. He might be embarrassed if he knew we were talking about him.” Sometimes Juliana liked to make gentlemen uncomfortable just for the hell of it, but Lord Maldon was such a sweet man, she could never bring herself to tease him like she often teased others. And for some reason, she wanted him to think well of her, probably because so many people didn't.


“Perhaps I shall ask him about it the next time I see him. We had such little time to talk at the opera. Some of his relatives sat with us, and there was no chance to speak about hobbies and interests. And after the opera, he left to give gifts to the performers.”


Juliana chuckled at Nicolette's advice. “I usually have a glass of wine before bed and it has the same effect on me.” She usually got up at least once during the night, and when she didn't sleep alone, she often woke up her lover after she finished answering nature's call. “I will try it at different times to see when it helps the most.”


Of course, the Frenchwoman would be curious as to how she had avoided complying to the standards women were expected to live by. “I simply do as I wish and don't worry about the consequences. After all, propriety is a concept devised by men in order to control us with it. I refuse to live by their silly rules. Unfortunately, a woman's freedom comes with a price, but I was more than willing to pay it.


“Thank you.” A hint of gratefulness colored her sophisticated voice. “I will look forward to your letter.”

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"Perhaps he would at that..." Nicolette paused before adding, "although with experience at court one knows the true tragedy is when nobody is talking about you at all."


"Ah, yes of course. He is a friend of Lady Toledo, and Lady Kendishall too. She played her cello at the opera, though I fear hardly anyone at court even knew. I suggested she wear a gown that did not brook being ignored, but she is such a considerate lady. Did not want to steal any of the glory of the singer upon the stage." But as it was, Caroline's first performance before court was not likely remembered by anyone except her closest friends.


"Ah. It is less a course of freedom you can commend anyone else, than of reckless that does not touch you because of your high rank." Nicolette saw that Juliana path was not available to her even if she wanted it. "So it is just as well I revel in the feminine role. That I do not see the rules as insurmountable walls, but as challenges to navigate around. And the gentlemen... not trying to control me, but trying to control themselves." she grinned of her final comment.


"It is all about perspective really."


They might knock heads a little, but there was a grace to their expense over health. Nicolette was pleased of that, and nodded in confirmation of her promise.

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“It depends on what they're saying,” Juliana chuckled. “Sometimes it is better not to be talked about at all.” She was expressing the opinion of most ladies at court rather than her own. She liked being talked about, and her scandalous past brought her an infamy that she quite enjoyed. Her reputation … or lack thereof … made her popular among hedonistic courtiers while alienating the prudes, and she didn't have to waste her time associating with pompous fools she had no interest in.


Lady Kendishall was hosting the party that Lord Maldon had invited her to. She had wondered what kind of lady she was, and whether her party would be boring or fun. Since she was artistic and had participated in the opera, Juliana concluded that she was not one of the overly proper sorts she abhorred.


“I thought the orchestra was marvelous, but most of the focus was on the stage. I doubt she would have stood out no matter what she wore. I know that when I accompanied singers on the piano, they got most of the attention. Perhaps she will find other opportunities to play, either alone or with a small group of other musicians.”


It was possible that her status was partially responsible for the tolerance of the Swedish court. She had been been sent to the country and spent the last few years there, but she had not been banished and neither the Swedish nor German branches of her family had disowned her. Ladies of lower rank might not have fared so well.


Nicolette seemed to have the same goals as Juliana, but she had decided on a different route, one that was safer but not without risks. “That is a good strategy.” Juliana finished her tea and set the cup on its saucer, favoring her guest with a mischievous grin. “As for myself, I prefer gentlemen who aren't able to control themselves. Watching them try can be quite entertaining.”

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"Well that is what an innocent like Lord Maldon would think any way." She knew that any jade would tell you that infamy bet being unknown (or worse, ignored) hands down. But Juliana did not want to agree with Nicci in this, which was hardly surprising really.


The topic drifted briefly to her dear friend Caroline, and then ebbed away again. She was an illustration of a point, and not the point itself. "We may endeavour themes for our own renown, or people might place them upon us. I think whichever instance it is, reknown is a far better point to work from."


As Juliana completed her cup of tea, Nicolette realised her remnants were cool enough to complete also. She gave a smile of the Princesses reply, it was not as witty as her own comment, but held some merit for the sentiment. Overall Nicolette was realising that Juliana was far more naive then herself, which for whatever reason was not what she'd expected.


"I know better than to need wish you any luck in that, if the glamour in which you wrapped about our mutual friend is any indication, success is already yours and awaiting your claiming of it." she settled her cup upon saucer and placed it back upon the table.

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From what she had already revealed about herself, Juliana thought that Nicci understood that she was not expressing her own opinion. One who so openly flaunted her disdain for the unwritten rules of court behavior obviously liked being talked about. She was the kind of woman who greatly enjoyed being infamous. Some of the rumors that had circulated about her in Sweden were more exciting than her own life. She led people to believe that they were true, because she wished that they had been.


“I completely agree. To be known in any fashion is better than being ignored. You can gain respect by proving the rumors wrong, or like me, you can embrace them.”


A golden eyebrow quirked upwards when Nicolette said she had cast a glamor upon Lord Maldon. Was that a compliment or a thinly-veiled insult, claiming that she was not the person he believed her to be? “I am glad I made a good impression on him.” Her words were purposefully neutral. Juliana would have liked to ask her how well she knew Lord Maldon, but she was afraid that the sensitive Frenchwoman would be offended. She was going to have to develop a thicker skin to move up in the social hierarchy.


Indicating the teapot, she asked: “Would you like another cup of tea?”

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"I wonder how much exposure it takes to court before one develops that outlook?" Mlle Vauquelin pondered with regard to their subject; Lord Maldon, "Perhaps he is already matured. I am sorely tempted to tell him he was the objet d'art of our adorations, and thus find out."


Unaware that Juliana suspected an insult, she simply smiled as the Princess outwardly accepted the compliment.


"Thank you but I have had sufficient." The dainty woman placed her hand briefly over her cup with the decline, "though it is a fine blend indeed, it is from your home?"

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“I tried to conform when I first moved to Sweden but I was only a child. As I matured, I got tired of pretending to be someone I was not.” Perhaps it had been the same with Mademoiselle Vauquelin. They were close in age.


Lord Maldon was quite a bit younger than Juliana, but he did not seem new to court life. From the little she knew of him, his personality was the polar opposite of gentlemen like Lord Chatham, who, like herself, had long since threw off the yoke of respectability and reveled in the freedom it gave them. “Oh, you should,” she agreed, “but only when I'm standing next to you. I would love to see his reaction.”


Maybe they would get that chance at Lady Kendishall's party.


“It is English, but I don't know where it was bought. My servants take care of the shopping. Tea is not yet a popular beverage in either Sweden or Germany. In some cultural aspects, such as opera, we are ahead of England but in others, such as drinking tea, we are behind.”

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“It was not until I came to London that I truly dared. The English, they are not as ... judgemental as my countrymen." Nicolette replied. Perhaps their age did have a part in it, along with being unmarried. Eventually a woman got a sense of herself, and of what was truly important to her (and impressing their elders was rarely it).


"Is that a dare?' the beginnings of a grin tugged her cheeks, "You know I shall have to do it if it's a dare." For some reason it cast a more glowing hue upon the Princess as Juliana said she wanted to witness Malsons reaction. For some reason it felt like a partnership of a sort (however unlikely that actually was), and it felt rather good.


“Imported then. The English seem to love exotica more than most, they are collectors I suppose." It sounded like Sweden and Germany were more like France in that regard.


"So that was not your first Opera." neither had it been Nicci's first. "There was less of a buzz in the audience after than I'd expected. But perhaps that was because it was their first time?"


"Have you in Germany, or Sweden, your own Opera styles? In france we have 'Tragédie en musique', which is the French style of Opera. I suppose England shall develop it's own style the people shall love too, they shall make it their own."


"This may be true of people also." she came to muse, "the setting of a lady upon English soil is one thing, how she develops in response to her new surroundings is another."She spoke of herself in theory, though it might include Juliana also easily enough.

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If the French were judgmental, then maybe she really should rethink her plans to visit. Then again, Juliana was not interested in impressing anyone. She would rather shock them. An image insinuated itself into her mind of her walking a naked Lord Chatham like a dog in the gardens of Versailles. If she did decide to go, perhaps he would travel with her. “For me, coming to London gives me a fresh start. In Sweden, I was well-known. Here, I am a stranger. The challenge will be getting the English to see me as I want to be seen.”


The fake princess shrugged. “It wasn't meant as a dare, but now … it is one. But remember, I must be with you or it doesn't count.” Juliana thought they were getting along quite well now. She was still wary of asking Mademoiselle Vauquelin any personal questions, but she could find out everything she wanted to know about her and her cousin from the wagging tongues of other courtiers.


“It's quite good, wherever it came from,” she agreed. “Perhaps I shall ask my cook.”


Juliana shook her blonde head. “I've seen operas in Germany and in Sweden, but the one here was the first I have heard in English. Opera is more popular in Germany than it is in Sweden. Most German-language operas are based on religious themes, but Italian operas are performed there as well. They are still rare in Sweden, mostly entertainment for the upper echelons of the nobility, and they are all sung in Italian. To my knowledge, no opera has yet been written in Swedish.”


She chuckled. “Those Italians are determined to spread their operas all over the world. And yes, I believe you are right. England will develop its own unique style, as will all other countries who embrace the genre. At least here, it looks like the English beat the Italians to it, unless the composers or the singers are from Italy.


“I agree,” she said to Nicolette's comparison of ladies and music. “And I believe that the two of us will find success here in this new and exciting land.”

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