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The glory of God's beautiful creations | Late Afternoon 28th- Xmas 1677


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Somerset Mansion (Lord and Lady Basildon)

A spacious home made out of fashionable geometric shapes with details in sculpting, and the walls painted terracotta and white. The front lane was dotted with white gardenia's, blooming early. The entry was covered in vines with little white blooms and two hanging baskets with fresh spring flowers in different shades of pink.


The mansion was three stories high, with enough room to house guests and hold several events. Downstairs one would find the parlour, the study, the dining room, the library and of course the garden room filled with a multitude of ferns and a jasmine brush. In the back a large lawn and a teahouse that looked small and frivolous.


On the second floor there was a Master bedroom and a Ladies bedroom, both with a walk in closet. The walk in closet of the Ladies bedroom had recently been expanded. The third floor housed the guest rooms and the old nursery. Servants stayed in the attic.


The Marchioness of Worcester was, for all any knew, the mother of the Countess of Basildon. While few knew the truth of the matter, the truth mattered somewhat little. The countess was still her child; her children still Lisa's half-siblings; her husband still her step-father. Mary was a formidable sort of woman when she was not consumed by intermittent stretches of depression, like many a noble woman suffered.


She had heard little from the earl and only knew that he had been quite engaged the last many days through the court gossip. It was not he who she was planning to see that afternoon, though, when struck by a fancy of boredom at home. Lisa had piqued her interest in the young woman by saying that they shared a rather passionate pass-time.


A servant behind her carried a case as they were show inside, asking if the earl's French cousin was at home.

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As popular a Nicolette was (either in truth or her imagination) she did not have many visitors.


"For me - you are sure?" Nicolette expressed her surprise, and then pulled an airy nonchalance about her. Shifting shoulders, and adding '...oh but of course." this pretense of 'the new normal' was all for Daisy's benefit really.


"Come along then, I shall need you to make tea for us probably, well if she is going to stay for tea that is. Be prepared." She schooled her servant as they hurried down the stairs, one did not keep a Marchioness waiting, and this one was Lisa's mother!


There was a brief pause outside the door, to settle her breath, and then Nicolette swept into the room. "Lady Worcester, it is such a treat to see you." Nicolette dropped into the full curtsy that was her default when she was a little nervous. Why was she here, was she checking up on her for Lisa? Was she making sure that the house was in good order. Was she... "La, but come sit by the fire, warm yourself from the chill. Would you like tea, hot chocolate, soup?"


Nicolette was not ignorant to the case Mary's servant carried, the triggered thought of an unexpected houseguest was contained behind a glowing smile and questioning glance. Ot a present, though it probably wasn't a present, or not for her at least.

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"Tea would be lovely," Lady Worcester replied, quite comfortable enough in her son-in-law's house to be an easy guest. After all, she need not look around at paintings or knickknacks.


"I thought to visit because my daughter made mention of your great love for herbs and the Chelsea Gardens," the Marchioness began. "She would have me believe your interest is not just in the aesthetics and caretaking but in the use?"


Clearly, unless Nicolette thought a Marchioness would personally come by to tell her off, Lady Worcester was quite lured by the potential for another with such interests.

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Could it be that Nicci was a little paranoid, was that a family trait* perhaps?


With a clap of her hands to Daisy, "Quickly." Nicolette sent her maid scurrying to make tea, returning a fulsom smile to her visitor, who then revealed her purpose.


"Oh yes." the Frenchwoman's manner shifted, her expression opening as nerves eased. She remembered hoping to meet Lady Worcester for that same reason, but then with the whirl that was life at court, she had forgot.


"You are correct, I am not so versed in propagation, but rather the wondrous qualities of plants and how they might be applied. In fact, I just met with the Master of Chelsea physic the other day. A lovely man, you might know him, Master Battersea?" After Mary took a seat Nicolette too settled, "there is a guild you see, of which I was woefully ignorant, yet am making efforts to join or at least align myself respectfully of."


"Your interests are also in application?" Nicolette noticed at that point that the marchioness skin was marvelously smooth, perhaps from the use of water of Camomile?



* Louis had the paranoia challenge!

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"I cannot confess to knowing overly much about guilds, my dear." The nobility concerned little over such troublesome things; the people themselves were far more useful than the entities. "Surely there is nobody bothering you? Why, I would think dear Basildon would not put up with such a slight!"


The earl might not be of an old family, but he had other strengths.


"Nor would I think Battersby* likely for it. He always seemed to get along very well with that rascal, Ranelagh, who does have a very pretty garden on his little estate I shall allow. It borders the Physic Garden in Chelsea, did you know?"


The Marchioness had no way of knowing that Nicci fancied the dapper, libertine earl and knew precisely where his property was located.


"There is much to marvel in beyond cultivating one's semblence of their own Garden of Eden. Knowledge of such things has been very useful in keeping the Marquess' garrison at Chepstow from several poorly timed ailments."


(OOC - Is his name Battersea or Battersby, LOL? I don't think they are different people...are they?)

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"But I do not find it to be a bother at all. Rather, quite the adventure!" Nicolette assured with a grin tugging at the edge of her lips. "Though you are correct to say Lord Basildon apt to act. While I am inclined to attempt remedy it myself, it is with knowledge that he shall settle the issue if asked."


Which was possibly an admission that she rather enjoyed her interactions with Mr Battersby.


"Lord Ranelagh?" the Frenchwoman's spine straightened, her eyes brightened with repressed interest.


Nicolette had found far too few conversations about the court darling Richard Jones, her much adored Earl, whom she was inclined to speak about at the drop of a hat. This was in fact the first time that somebody else had brought him into the conversation, and she salivated at the prospect of drawing it out as much as possible!


"Do you mean the manor you can see from the specimen gardens?" She knew very well it was that one, for that was the house he'd pointed out to her, when stood in that very spot, and only moments later, had stolen a kiss. Or was it gifted a kiss, for she'd been rather plain that she'd desired it!


"But what has Lord Ranelagh - is that an Irish peerage? - have to do with Chelsea Physic?" Oh happiness was hers, the only thing comparable to talking to Lord Ranelagh, was talking about him.


"What a lovely way to put it." Nicolette expressed of the Marchioness' Eden-esque aim, "You have a garden in London? I would love to visit it next spring." her eyes slid towards the box that had been brought in, wondering what it's relevance was. Were there seeds in it? But she'd find out in good time no doubt.


"Fortune for your Lord Husband that you can recommend such measures. I have noticed a resistance to such things from many gentlmen, my own cousin even, for example. I suppose good health is easily regarded as unimportant to those who have it."


The clatter of cups out in the hall served as announcement of Daisy-the-maids arrival. A tray laden with tea things, and an arrangement of of items on a two tiered plate. Caraway cakes and Jumballs with candied orange and lemon peel spread about. Nicolette watched Daisy as she served them, and gave her an encouraging nod as she did well.








OOC - Whoops, my mistake sorry! (I knew something was up, cause it made me think of Beverly)

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"Yes, quite so, the very one. It is very prettily situated for a London house. It cannot have quite the sort of gardens one can have in the country. Have you even seen it?" the marchioness had no way of knowing of Nicci's fondness.


"His Majesty enjoys him and visits sometimes, but I doubt they are entirely admiring the gardens." The marchioness was not an ignorant woman, nor one to just ignore what went on with many of the men at court. Making merry was something of a necessity; her lord husband was not a frequent engager in such things, but he certainly did not entirely avoid it either.


"Yes, I do believe it is, but he was raised in London. He is Vice-Treasurer of Ireland. He was raised to the earldom but a few years ago for digging the crown out of serious debt in Ireland by some sort of privatization of the treasury. My lord husband marveled of it." She had little idea how curious Nicci was truly. "What he had to do with it? He had a hand in its design, my dear."


She chuckled, "He is like many men of such libertine bent, brilliant but prone to distraction."


Enjoying the conversation, the lady replied, "I speak more of our gardens at Badminton, but we have some pretty things in London as well. You are welcome to either. My boys have spoken well of you and would enjoy practicing their charms I am sure." She chuckled just a bit. Boys did need to perfect their flirting and it was all quite harmless.


"My lord husband and I are much a partnership. We did choose each other and not simply for liking." She gave Nicolette a wink. She needed out of her mother-in-law's clutches after her first husband's death, and Henry had needed her wealth due to the estrangement with his lord father and the condition of the estates after the late King's murder.

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Mary Somerset (snr) was a fine woman. Nicolette concurred with her entirely of course, taking it a step further even, for she had long term plans to come to abide in the 'prettily situated' house. Her daydreams were of gazing out it's windows across at her highly esteemed Chelsea Physic, where perhaps she'd have a gate placed for easier access. (Though perhaps Lord Ranelagh already had one installed, she could hardly imagine the sweetheart of a man clambering over a fence!)


"Why I think I have seen it, indeed. The house that seems to have oh so many rooms, and it's grounds Edenic, to use your term. Seeming none for want of repair."


Nicci had imagined that Lord Ranelagh was horribly well off, he always dressed so well, and look at how highly placed at court as he was. But a girl could never be sure. Accounts were easily come by, and less frequently paid at the end of a month. Why Nicci herself for an instance, she still owed Aylths tea shop five pounds since May! (though she had been trying to meet with Catriona, with a mind to figuring a way to settle the debt.)


So it was that the account that Mary relayed of Ranelagh's genius in the management of moneys, that set her in a respectful awe. "Oh my." it was harder to hide her regard, and she felt less inclined towards hiding it. Then too, that the King visited him right there. It was all becoming too magnificent!


"Any one who sets your own Husband to marvel, is praiseworthy by his Majesty indeed." Louis had not told Nicci any of this, but now wonder he'd approved of her goal when she'd told him it. Now wonder he'd volunteered a dowry if she managed to catch him. He was... The catch of England.


"Distraction can be forgiven of gentlemen, and some have fully earned it." She was under no illusions of Ranelagh morality. She gave a small smile, coming to realise that this conversation was remarkably candid. That the Marquise was speaking woman to woman in a manner that was utterly refreshing.


"The boys?" Nicolette did a double take, till a penny fell into place and it dawned upon her that Mary was speaking of the boys Arthur and Charles. Light laughter lifted to the air. There was a measure of relief there too, in that the Mother did not discourage her sons from flirtations, for educational purposes. "But I think rather highly of them also, and yes, I admit, I have flirted with them just terribly. They are so adorable with their secret looks, and yet so strongly principled when it comes to matters of honour. Did they tell you, that I offered them an excuse to avoid their Papa's anger at the Bonfire? But no, they spoke the truth fully, and I think their hides suffered as a result. Charles, any how." Arthur had still been allowed out to explore the city with her the next week.


"I have not seen them out this season, they attend the festivities? Oh dear, do not say some manner of mischief over game them and they have been sat to 'think about it' until next season?"


"Badmington..." There were so many places in England that she'd not heard about, places that sounded terribly exclusive and appealing. "I would love to visit, is that very far from Basildon?"


They seemed to be finding an affinity, this point punctuated by the wink then delivered. It was an exchange given as though from one knowing woman to another. Nicolette appreciated that more than Mary could have known.


"Inspiring." she replied simply. "Lord Basildon and your daughter are another partnership would you agree. May I tell you that my thoughts of marriage have been turned around since staying with them. A partnership, yes that is a fine thing. I dare say it was a challenge to come upon." her mind swung to the vision of her brief meeting of the Lord Worcester. "Your husband is a man of strength and character, I should not think him susceptible to the usual ploys a lady uses. Was it perhaps your studious bent that captivated him of you?"


The thing that both Mary and her daughter had in common, in attaining their 'partnerships' was gigantic dowries. Nicolette had to bring something other than money to a potential marriage. But there was more to it than just that, for a 'partnership' there had to be more.

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The marchioness let out an airly laugh at the tales of her boys. Dear Herbert, her Charles! Her husband had known something was afoot when he took all responsibility. He was not simply protecting his younger brother for a good birching but the honor of a lady who had likely happened upon their mischief.


"Oh, my dear, well we knew that there was something more to the tale. Poor dear Herbert did not wish to sit for some long time and was forced to wait a few days with his lord father in the Presence Chamber to make his apologies to the King! By design, of course, for a good lesson learned. I think his father was a twinge happy that it was over so trivial a matter to scare the boy into remembering to behave as a nobleman."


As to the whereabouts of the boys, she revealed, "Herbert has been at university and shall come soon. Arthur has been around, so it likely you may yet see him." He was likely having fun in the snow and ice.


"Badminton is in Gloucestershire, so opposite coast of the country from Basildon."


As to the pairing with her husband, she said with a grin, "My wit, my charms, but most of all my money. I was a very rich widow, my dear. My first husband was Lord Beauchamp, son of the Duke of Somerset."

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"Better to lean upon a small matter. Ah, but they are both such charming boys, I have little doubt that they that become great men one day." upon that thought she felt a moment of pleasure. For what lady would not be pleased to think themselves formative, even if in a tiny way.


"Then I shall look for him." the Frenchwoman replied of Arthur, who'd bent his families rules with a little more daring, and put Nicolette's red satin breeches upon his own account. Charles was the more elusive one, responsiblity of being the eldest seemed to do that, but also, it sounded like he'd wanted to impress her. And he had. Perhaps Nicolette would find an oportunity to reveal as much to him. Who knew.


"Then perhaps a family excursion could be planned? I shall ask my Cousin if it is possible." Nicci said, cautious of planning to traveling so far, when she was not truly certain, or even hopeful that, her focus might change by recess.


Yet the woman before her seemed a woman of the world.


"You are a high recommendation for a second marriage. Though I am yet to have a first." she paused, and then tentatively asked, "Would you have any advice to give, a woman like myself, who might one day aspire to marry a man of..." was it obvious, oh it felt obvious! "... say Lord Ranelagh's stature?"

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"It should be in late spring or early summer when everything is beautifully in bloom," the other lady said, with a smile. It would do little good to visit in the colder months.


"I have several specimens from other parts of the world that you surely must see. It is remarkable how many captivating things grow in such far places. I even have some things which come from naked natives who supposedly shrink the heads of their enemies in order to absorb their power."


That made the marchioness remember one of the other reasons why she had come.


"A well-placed peer, you mean?" she asked, quirking a brow. The marchioness was not without guile and skill in furthering stations. She knew very little of Nicolette's situation. One did not usually mention to one's mother how one's husband's blood connections were not of great political worth or familial worth.


"Beyond the usual business-like considerations, it is best to be an asset to a man's aspirations and to be a compliment to his personality. If you share similarities to him, it is easy to converse with and impress his friends and even his parents if they are living." Friends and family often shared similarities with a person, after all. "Of course you bring connection to Louis, his circle, and the circles he is a part of as well. If a man needs something, he can often be coaxed over the hump of marriage if a woman can provide it." A problem to go away that a family member could see to, votes, or the like.

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"Then perhaps after the Kings Birthday season next year. If it suits, I might travel with you to Badminton?"


Mary started to tell of her gardens. Midway through her comments upon transplanted foreign plants Nicolette grinned, seeing a simile to herself (although France was not really so far away). "Life has an obstinacy to it, and can surmount great odds - most especially with the cultivation of a tender Gardner to oversee it's progress. Why, I'd not be surprised if some blooms do even better than in their own origins."


At least she hoped that was her own case.


Eyes then flared when out Mary spoke of shrunken heads. "Mon dieu!" So that was what had happened to the head at the shop.


"Yes a well-placed peer." Nicolette repeated with smile and a nod. It was to her cousin’s discretion whether they revealed Nicolette's goals to Lisa's mama, managing such things was within their realm.


But the advice that Mary gave her was certainly applicable for she herself. Nicolette nodded quietly. There was the usual reminder that business was at the center of any negotiation, this deflating thought was remembered with more difficulty now that she'd set a marriage goal. (In the past, when she'd aligned to never marrying, knowing she had nothing to bring was of no import!)


But in other things, complimentary interests etc, those were the things that gave her hope. Ranelagh obviously loved the Physic gardens, and his name was attached to the Chelsea hospital as well. Though he'd not talked of that with Nicci personally, she could guess that beneath his carefully turned out prettiness lay a heart that cared about others. He had a fine sense of merriment, knew how to laugh and to tease. And he was the most charming flirt. Nicolette liked to imagine that they were entirely compatible. All except for, that little HUGE thing. A carefree man like him, would marry when it suited his best interests. And how could she be to any mans best interest, let alone the magnificent Richard Jones.


"Need something?" that harmless sounding comment, practically a cursory after thought, caught Nicolette's ears. She fell silent of it, brows pinching with thought. "How might a lady know what a man might need? Is this one of those things that the gentlemen of one’s family manage?" Perhaps Louis could find out what Lord Ranelagh needed? Or. "Or, ... spies?" Hiring spies was frequently enough done. Only. "But, I am French, O don't think that it would be wise for me to do something that could flare angers if learnt of."


Nicolette bit her lip. Perhaps that goal had been foolish, it was just such a lovely thing to imagine as she slipped to sleep each night.


Giving the Marchioness a small smile she shrugged, "ah, but that is no matter. Different lives mean different things. Shall I tell you of an exciting project I have found a sponsor for? I am to study the types of ills of people from different parts of the city (I get their addresses when they buy medicines at the shop). This is to learn if there might be location specific conditions that can be treated preventatively. I have secured the underwriting of a Doctor, well really, he shall write the paper also no doubt. But he did like my idea, and is happy for me to research it and give him whatever information I find." She was hoping to get her name upon the paper also.


There was nothing saying she could not still mix with Lord Ranelagh, and perhaps in time fortunes would have changed, and, who knew what might happen then.


"La, I cannot remain quiet any longer. What is in the box your man brought with you? Something for Lisa?" Nicci thought it might be a compartmentalised box, like the one that Lord Melville had given her. Though since Mary loved gardens, instead of healing powders, the compartments would be full of seeds. Perhaps it was an un-grown garden as a gift for her daughter. Perhaps she would ask Nicci to oversee it's planting, ready for Lisa's return.


Those were the thoughts that had conjured inside Nicci's head.

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"There are many ways to find out what a gentleman needs beyond their needs of the flesh. Listen to the rumors of what troubles face him. Perhaps there is a way you might alleviate them or use one of your other connections to do so. Listen to his friends and enemies, for much might be revealed by such people of him." She smiled, "And if it is political, why, dear Basildon might know or might hear of things."


Basildon's mother-in-law had no idea of the bet with Louis to snag Ranelagh, so there would be no way to know that using Louis might be something of "cheating."


"Is that right?" the marchioness said, in reply to her endeavors. It seemed a bit strange to her, for such academic things were a bit beyond her. "That sounds very interesting. Why might that be? Particular things in particular places?"


It was not that often that women were involved in such things or got to speak of them, so the marchioness was quite curious.


"Something for Lisa?" she asked. "Surely not, for then I would send it off to her. No, mademoiselle, it is for you."


The chest was brought over to Nicci and held by the servant, for it was a bit heavy. Inside she would find copies of Parkinson's Theatrum Botanicum and Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes*.


(OOC - IRL the marchioness catalogued these as being in her actual library )

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It was not so much a bet, rather that Louis had said he would cough up a dowry if she managed to get Ranelagh's interest. He'd not doubted her chances really, although the look on his face and the offer had let Nicolette know her goal was audacious, unlikely even. (Louis did not part easily with his money, likely he did not think he'd need too.) Still, by the offer, he'd dared her to try.


The french woman nodded her head slowly, working her mind of any memory of Ranelagh's concerns. She had not heard of anything, but she'd not yet really tried.


"Thank you." Nicolette gave a small smile for the advice, appreciated, even if she was a little embarrassed for needing it.


"Yes." Upon the topic of health though, she was confidant, "The Thames for instance, harmless in this weather, but in summer. Then there are the various neighbourhoods, with health complaints that may be exacerbated, or even spawned from, the conditions found thereabouts. In it's very simplest form, there are illnesses found commonly in a city, that never crop up in the country. These are the sorts of thing I want to study. I... I wish to extend my understanding I suppose. Find a use for the things I have learnt. The Apothecary is very good, and I am utterly delighted of it, but it is not a genteel occupation is it. Why, the very fact that is is indeed an occupation says it all."


Nicolette had come from merchant origins, it would be a slight to her Fathers higher achievements if his daughter reverted to it.


Then the box. And Nicci's question!


"For me?" of course a part of her had wondered at first, but not wanting to be greedy, she'd repressed that thought. A smile a-lit her face now, as she peered forward with undisguised interest!


Reaching into the box she took out the first book, holding it carefully for it was plainly special, she read it's title. "Theatrum Botanicum." a small gasp, and she continued reading, "The Theater of Plants. Or, An Herball of a Large Extent, Containing therein a More Ample and Exact History and Declaration of the Physical Herbs and Plants that are in Other Authors, Encreased by the Accesse of Many Hundreds of New, Rare, and Strange Plants from All the Parts of the World..." the title was lengthy indeed, there was much more, but she halted there.


And bent to lift a second book to her knees. This title she read in silence, awed pleasure.


"Lady Somerset, oh may I call you Mary, this is such a lovely loan you make. I shall care for them like they are my children, I promise. Thank you, thank you so much." her voice caught with emotion of it, and a silly tear of excess joy slid down her cheek.

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The marchioness thought as Nicolette spoke and then at last she nodded.


"Well gentlemen have hobbies of science, so why not ladies with hobbies of science," the lady said. "You do not have to do such things but choose to, that is very different than an occupation. It is not your livelihood after all. Why, my sons are both interested in tinkering with mechanical things and science but that is not seen as common at all. Even His Majesty enjoys such things.."


She nodded, but then quietly cautioned, "Just be careful. Some men can find such things to be evidence of witchcraft when it does not suit them or when they are threatened." It helped when one had protection like Basildon and family names to separate oneself from such but women did yet need to be careful of many things. She told herself it was an interest in God's beauty, but many did not feel the same way. Men were jealous creatures. Perhaps not apothecaries, but physicians surely. Being of noble stock was protection from many things, so it was unlikely any would think Nicci involved with such things.


The marchioness took some delight in the girl's reaction to her gifts. She hoped Nicolette would find the same wonder and enjoyment in them that she had. It was one thing to have and see what one could in England or even in France, but there was a large world with many specimens.


"I am pleased that you like them. Any relation of dear Basildon deserves a familial welcome after all. It brings me happiness to think I might have another to talk to of such things. I do not even think my recently married daughter, now Lady Beverley, ever held as grand an enjoyment as I, though she has a fine eye for flowers, gardens, and pretty things." She sighed. The loss of another daughter to such a fine family was happy but weighty and perhaps a pang of loneliness. She knew she was prone to melancholy and sought to fight such a recurrence. "In private, you may, surely," the lady replied. A grand gift indeed, for Mary tended to be rather formal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

OOC: Sorry I overlooked reply!


The Marchioness's was a different view, and Nicolette was surprised by it.


"It is science isnt it." she'd not made the link previously, and did like the sound of it. "I wish that Lord Basildon could hear you, he is the kindest man, but he does think that herbs and herbal learning to be more 'novelty' than 'important'." Quietely disclosed - she would not say such a thing to someone outside of the family. "I seek a way to show him otherwise."


"Ah yes." she grinned of Mary's mention of her sons interest, "Their interest in science is well known to us all, their fireworks were hand made I believe. Why, perhaps they were hoping to impress the King when they let them off at the naval demonstration?" In her growing understanding of the families values, she expected that was just it. There was bound to have been some nobler sentiment beneath it all.


"Like, no, I love them." Nicolette expressed, "even more so to discover our affinity. You too shall understand the sigh of ones heart when talk of one's favourite thing is merely indulged by others. The zeal that we feel is grand, but is not infinite, we need share our love of things for them to further grow and mature. Perhaps we select some herb or plant in these books, and make a special effort with it during my recess visit? We might have a project together? Mmm, perhaps we grow a plant in grand quantities, and then surprise it upon London's spring season? A pot of it sat upon every street corner, or to be discovered peppered about Whitehall. Oh I do not know, but together I think we might make some darling fun of it, that shall charm our peers and delight our own hearts."


Nicolette was all a-bubble with enthuse, for this was a very real token of friendship offered, and by such a quality woman. It was a joy, an honour.

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"Trying to predict sicknesses sounds not a far cry different than trying to predict how to turn metal to gold," the marchioness replied, and perhaps a bit of the way she said it hope that one of her boys could find the answer to the gold problem. After all, the Philosopher's stone was supposed to cure all ailments as well. Or perhaps that was meant to be symbolic for coin did solve many ills.


"I do believe that they wished to impress someone or perhaps His Majesty. My intuition tells me that they went off far earlier than intended. Boys can be disasters, for it nearly caused Mary hardship for she was right in the middle of trying to edge out others for a husband and we surely could not all socialize after something so scandalous."


The life of a highborn lady at court was one wrought with traditions and expectations. One did not show one's face after such a catastrophe at an event of His Majesty! Heaven's forbid!


"Oh indeed, I like that idea very much. We can have an exotic project together. Basildon is a man who understands such procurements, and surely he will be able to find such a tradesman who has or can get whatever seed we like or perhaps with those you know, you might know someone else as well." If Nicolette knew this Apothecary, perhaps she might know others who could be useful to such an endeavor. "Getting something by ship might take too long, though. For we should wish to do something this growing season. One never knows how many seasons on has," the marchioness added. Death was an all too frequent possibility though their family had been saved most such misfortunes. "I shall let you pick something that we can attempt to grow en masse to surprise court in summer; it must be uncommon but not so rare as to leave us with nothing." She smiled warmly, clearly keen on the idea.

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"Mmm... more like trying to predict the weather. Some places have more rain, some places have fog, some places are sunny for months in summer." Nicolette provided counter argument. No one had ever turned lead into gold, but people got sick every day, patterns could form, predictions could be made.


Mary agreed they had wanted to impress someone. Nicolette paused a moment. "I was talking to the older boys mostly, when the young one threw his fireworks in the fire. He was jealous of attention perhaps?" it made perfect sense, "La, to be the mother of boys, you must be always trying to think ahead!"


Perhaps that was all the more reason that the Marchioness needed indulge her own interests - whatever it was she seemed pleased with the idea of a project together - and naturally Nicolette was elated. "Summer you think?" Mary was the expert, and would know if spring was too soon. " Perhaps Master Battersby can provide us with seeds?”


“Mmm… but you are right, the transportation is the troublesome thing. Perhaps our project should be grown not far from London, why, perhaps Basildon even? A detour upon our way to Badminton. Although, if we could find a place to grow our plants in London, then we can watch over them ourselves during spring season... and, I would like an excuse to see you most regularly." she admitted the last with a grin.


Such talk of plants did raise Lord Maldon to the back of Nicci's mind, but she was enjoying this one on one with Mary so she said naught.

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The marchioness seemed to consider what Nicolette said about the weather. She nodded, "Well, then, I hope it is so for you, for then you might discover something interesting." Thinking of her own life and her own husband's woes and experiences, she added, "Garrisons and encampments seem much prone to sickness too and even those that are mobile and move from place to place."


That had been a problem of Chepstow that she had to see to for Worcester.


Mary shook her head as the revelation of the boys came forth. "So it was little Ossory who was responsible for the debacle? I thought it might be such. The Butlers are much prone to temper, you know. My husband is quite close to His Grace of Ormonde, the Welsh Marches are of paramount importance to dealing with Ireland and the coves are a bastion of sorts for Irish smuggling of goods."


As many families, alliances were built and solidified in a sensible sort of way. Her daughter had just been married to the son of the Lord Deputy of Ireland.


"I was thinking more of the transport of the rare seeds for our purposes," she clarified. "For some of the things in the books may not be easily available here. You bring up a good point of transporting the final product, though. Badminton is perhaps not close enough to ensure the freshest of blooms to show off. Basildon might be close enough if your cousin will give us space and men to till." That was a grand idea, for any lady would not mind using someone else's coin and space for her projects. Who refused their mother-in-law?


"Battersby might be useful for some rare seeds that we can start with before we can get some of the more obscure things from far abroad. I do not know if things from the Carib would grow here aside from a in a hot house, and one would need a very large hot house to produce enough of one thing to little palace with them," she mused aloud.

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"Truly?" Nicolette had never thought of military men's ails, she had been raised in the country, and then lived in Paris, she's had no exposure to encampments and such. "Then perhaps I should focus upon that rather than the city. The poor gentlemen who fight, are not just a few blocks away from an apoctothary, and probably there is not many doctors there either."


"When I come to Badminton, might I be allowed to speak with the doctor for your husbands garrison? I would like to ask him questions of the troubles the men present." she gave an apologetic smile then, "I am sorry to ask you so many things."


"M-hmm." Nicolette nodded, feeling a tad guilty that shed ratted Ossory out. She'd not meant it that way. But then Mary distracted her with another mention of Ireland, which of course made her think of darling Ranelagh. Would he have a hand in Irish smuggling? With Bribes. It did not seem his style, and oh such style he had. More likely those smugglers were his bane, skulking about avoiding officials, ports and taxes.


And Mary's daughter had Irish connection also.


"Ireland seems to be very present, for a place quite far away." Nicolette commented, her lashes fluttering as she realised that this was precisely the sort of information she needed to pay attention to. For, these were the troubles that her future fiancee must be wrestling with. This must be what he needed help with. Though how could she, a Frenchwoman, do to help? She needed to become clever of it. "The Marches... these are bogs? Muddy places?" she asked.


She would need to think about this more.


As to their botanical scheme. "Then perhaps we begin with something that shall easily thrive, and save a more risky plant for the following summer?" Nicolette grinned in suggesting that it be not just once, but an annual activity. "We shall work out all the practicalities this year upon a less sensitive planting... something stout and robust." Nicolette gave into temptation then, and opened the book on her lap flipping through wondering what plant they could settle upon. "Robust, yet beautiful too, and perhaps with a fragrance that is uplifting to the spirits. It might something as fine as England. Is there a flower for the Cross of St George?"

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"I am sure that I could arrange such a thing," the marchioness nodded. "Do not apologize. You yet have an exuberance of youth; I sometimes still wish I had that vivacity, but as one get's older, there are dark times too, the mind becomes overwhelmed. When the Marquess and I had to bear separations for this reason or that, it could be quite lonely."


In truth, there had been plenty of times where she had gone through difficulties. After having her children, after each was married...


"Yes, it is, I suppose. It is one of His Majesty's domains and a bit more civilized that Scotland!" She gave a scoff-like laugh. "At least the gentlemen in charge of it all are quite so and seemingly English." Even the Ranelagh she seemed fond of had been raised and lived in England. Ormonde held an English title too. Brooke was English. The Feilding boy had both an English earldom and Irish earldom.


"The Marches are the border-lands between England and Wales, and the coves are on the coastlines closest to Ireland," she replied. "Both are important in a military sense."


She was far happier to speak to the more familiar topics between ladies. Their battles and strategies were for different matters than those of the men.


"What a splendid idea." As to the rose, her lips pressed in thought. "On Saint George's Day there is custom of wearing a red rose, but red roses are not so very exciting."

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There had been a hint of it earlier that Nicolette had tried cheer her past, but then a second time Mary revealed an inner sadness, which this Frenchwoman perceived as a want for companionship.


Nicolette's eyes met the elder woman, and she dared to reach across and covered her hand with her own. "My Lady Mary," said softly and with a pleasure of use of her personal name, "perhaps our friendship shall bridge any such loneliness in the future. You must summon me whenever you want for a companion, truly I can think of no other lady that I have felt such a respect and enjoyment of her company. I must admit, that I do not make friends with other ladies very easily. I do try, I just find I ... disagree with them so often." she completed upon her own confession, that a friendship would satisfy from both sides.


Though perhaps Nicolette was buttering her bread on the right side, for her vision told her that friendship (akin to being ladies maid to the Marchioness) was a terribly high honour, and then there was the families link with the exceedingly handsome Richard Jones. (Yes Nicolette knew just nobody called him Richard, that very fact made her feel wickedly intimate to call him that in her mind!)


"Oh, I understand. And these are the marches that your Husbands Chepstow garrison monitor." the penny dropped and Nicolette understood how it worked, and why Lords Worchester and Ranelagh worked together. Perhaps there was a chance that Ranelagh would even visit Badminton while she would be there? Now that was a very lovely thought indeed.


"Red roses would seem like romance." Nicolette agreed with Mary that they were not very exciting. "and too well known. We need a plant that requires a second and third look, and perhaps a scent that makes people turn to see where the fragrance is from? Honeysuckle maybe..."


Her breath was caught, and touching the randomly opened page of The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, Nicolette crooned, "Look at the illustration." she marvelled of it, and read a little of the page to herself. "Grows plentifully in the north part of England... and I have found it in many palces of Kent." It was of Saint Peters Wort (p.434). "O I love this book. Quite anything we could grow would be a blessing for the people." she wanted to grow every picture she looked at!


"... mmm, or is there an Irish flower perhaps?"

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"You are very sweet," the marchioness said. "I certainly shall, though such comforts are more difficult when not at court. It is more such times that can become lonely. Badminton is not London, though sometimes the street is so much a ruckus that husbands would rather their ladies stay home so as to not worry of their safety. And, of course, Lord Worcester trusts me over many to report reality back to him. If he fails, I fail, so that level of trust can not be replicated in servants."


There were many reasons for such separations, but the lady would surely call on Nicolette on a whim now!


"Oh, but you have a brain, that is why," the marchioness nodded. "Many ladies do not yet do not wish to be made to look stupid." She said it in a way that suggested she was positive that must be the case. One did stand up for one's family, after all!


"Yes, yes, the scent. It must be something that is divine," she agreed. She leaned in to look at the book. "Oh indeed, that would be very fine." As to Irish flowers, the lady added, "I am no expert on Irish flowers, but perhaps you can find out? An Irish flower because of Lord Ranelagh?"

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Mary mentioned the closeness of her relationship with Worchester, it sounded so extremely fine. It reminded her of Lisa's relationship with Louis, and she imagined that style of strength she brought with her had come down through her mother. It seemed a very desirable thing, and caught at the Frenchwoman’s heart strings.


"Excusez-moi." Nicci touched her chest and settled an unexpected rush of emotion, "I am at times overcome with the depth of marvel I discover of ... of what I feel overbold to dare claim as my English family. The level of trust Your Lord husband places in you, and Lord Basildon in Lady Lisa... it is such a rare thing surely. To be witness to it is, la! I am overwhelmed."


She felt a little silly of her reaction, and gave an apologetic smile.


"The things a Lady reports might be revealing for a gentleman, which the feminine perspective of reality." she completed more sensibly.


"M-hmm." Nicolette nodded, having known girls just like that. "Some ladies think gentlemen like to be the wise ones, and so purge any sort of thought from their own brains, giggling and smiling, and treating their gentleman friends like they are the font of all knowledge!" No doubt Mary had seen girls that behaved like that also. "The worst part is," Nicci added, "is that those girls seem to become just as stupid as they first pretended. It seems as the way you act is the way you become. I shall try then for cleverness."


Caught away with examination of the book again, Mary then slid in a comment that made Nicci stop and give a blushing laugh. "Of course I might have been thinking of your daughters new connection... but you have caught me, yes indeed I was thinking of Lord Ranelagh. La, I would try disguise a red rose in a shamrock to catch his note?!" she mocked herself. He was so far beyond her reach in many ways, it was a silly, if such an appealing dream.


"Yes, I could ask if he has a suggestion - if you do not mind?" Perhaps Mary had just been teasing her, Nicci hoped she was not being one of those vacant headed girls to now ask.

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The marchioness smiled. She had enjoyed the benefit of being a rich widow when she had married Henry and that gave her more leverage than a maiden with no experience of any of the world. She had merely taught Lisa well and only Basildon would be attracted to such a strong personality, amongst other things.


"It is rare but possible," she encouraged the girl.


"There is much to your notion of becoming what you practice," Mary replied with a laugh. "Or perhaps they are rewarded so often for it by silly husbands that they never can think to act otherwise, even if they are free to do so." Her depressions had led her to much reading during those times.


For a moment the Irish connection of her daughter went right over her head. It was surely not the first thing one thought about. However, the girl confessed to being "caught" over Lord Ranelagh!


"My! But are you?" She blushed and giggled too. That had not wholly been her meaning, but she was not going to deny the knowledge now!


"Hmm, but how not to tip him to your interest. I surely shall not stand in the way of your endeavors to find a fitting flower, though. I do not mind at all."

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Nicolette nodded, a warm feeling in her heart of having discovered... was it friendship? She felt an unforced affinity with Mary, a blend of compassion and respect, and far more besides.


"That is the sort of marriage I would dread." She wanted more for herself, she wanted a life more like Mary's and Lisa’s - while not sure she was clever enough to achieve it she would try!


The Marchioness giggled girlishly, and Nicci's laughter increased from the lack of judgment therein.


"Yes me and no doubt countless others! I am not naive to think he's carefree to making his own match, avoiding it even - but every Lord does so one day, heirs need be begat. My chance has not passed yet," she calmed herself to speak sensibly, then appending, "… he is in no rush, so I need not be either."


"I shall write him asking for a suggestion, if you do not mind, might in include that it is for a secret scheme of yours and mine together? Writing shall not seem so hungry for his attention, while still letting him know he is considered." she drew in a breath and then exhaled with wistful expression.


It was best not to think of him overlong, for nonsense would take her mind. 'We are going to need many plant pots..."

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"Such it is for libertines. There are some who would say Basildon was once so wild too," the marchioness said. Whether she currently believed that or not, there was no indication. "THere is something to be said for a bit more sensible of a man; my Henry is neither libertine nor prude, but he is a strong, diligent, and resourceful man."


Such made for easier marriages in her mind. She did not know of many successfully married libertines.


"I do not mind at all. Perhaps you might ask him for some pots?" she chuckled at the idea of wrangling in another lord into paying for part of it. Women had to use what wiles they possessed for some advantageous purpose and appealing to a man's gentlemanliness or gallantry could be a prime way of advancement at court! And thrifty too. "Who wishes to buy pots when one could buy pearls with the surplus, after all? We women have wiles for a reason!"

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"My Cousin has mentioned Lord Aylesford to me." Nicolette revealed of that.


Perhaps it was foolish to yearn after a libertine upon the memory of their first meeting that had entranced her so. Perhaps Mary was correct and a sturdy and dependable sort of man would make a better husband. Yet... with her plans ahead (that were not at all prim) it was impossible for her to contemplate a sensible sort of match at the moment. Perhaps in some years time when all was done, she'd have had her fill of uncertain adventure and look to make the sober match then.


Yet as much as she thought to change the topic from Ranelagh now, Mary extended it. "Oh, that is a good idea." Nicolette had to admit, grinning of it, "so long as he does not think to gain a sway over our choice there by." though how bad could that be really?

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The marchioness thought they could do better than Aylesford; after all, Nicolette was very pretty and very sociable. Being half-French just meant she had widened bloodlines; marriages with cousins could get troublesome after a while.


"Oh, I do not worry of that, my dear. I think you can keep the dear man in his place. After all, he is just a man and a bit of a silly man at that. I should think you could lead him by the nose to do it all quite willingly. Why, you could even use your powers of Lady of Misrule if need be. That is a position to be milked thoroughly after all." She nodded her emphasis.

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Nicolette was in fact fully French, but if she benefitted from an assumed watering-down of her heritage while on English soil (Louis’s half-englishness attributed to her) , then so much the better. But for now talk of Alesford or any other fell to the wayside (thankfully).


“The Misrule?” Nicolette had been grinning of Marys’ suggestions (what pretty thoughts they had been), but then puzzled when she suggested Misrule might be used that way. Leaning forwards Nicolette admitted, “I am not entirely sure how others might wield a sceptre of misrule, but I want to do it with spirit, it seems a thing that I might create a reputation with don’t you think?”


“But yes, I shall do whatever it takes to get posts from Ranelagh, we already know he has a penchant for gardens.” Which was possibly the clincher that had made Nicolette decide he’d make a grand match. “I don’t think he is truly so silly though.” She added under her breath, a touch of loyalty revealed.

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