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Making Promises, Wed 29, early afternoon {open}- Xmas 1677


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Portrait Gallery

The long hallway connecting the Banqueting House and the Great Hall is decked out in portraits, landscapes and sculptures from all the past masters. Stools dot the hallway, as well as a fireplace or two, to warm it in the winter months. Also scattered about are small nooks that lend an air of privacy in the open corridor, especially at night.


The lone figure attired in a shade of warm gold velvet that made her brown eyes sparkle was quiety studying the portrait before her, her brown head tilted a bit to one side, as her gaze took note of all the small details that many oft times over-looked.


At seventeen Lady Frances Cavendish, daughter of the Duke of Newcastle, was in all truth feeling a bit lost. A Christmas Court was supposed to be a rare thing and so she had expected more than what might have been at Windsor or even Richmond by way of entertainments. If there were activities, and she was sure there were, then her feeling of being left out was correct. Her elder sister Elizabeth had been no help but then as Duchess of Albemarle she had her own House to run.


Her Aunts, the Countesses of Bridgewater and Bolingbroke respectively, had also not been very helpful instead ofering their own ideas on how the daughter of a Duke must always behave and was Frances thinking of disobedience perhaps?


She gave a small sigh.


If only she was more like the woman in the portrait - The Great Bess of Hardwick! Frances was her great-great-granddaughter but up to now sadly lacking in any inherited traits of that Lady that could be detected. Longing to break free of the tight control that had been her everyday existence since her birth she was determined to change it all come the start of the New Year.


She longed for a husband and to run her own establishment. But there was still nothing from her parents in the way of any contract - she knew that as the eldest unmarried daughter her marriage would be a meeting of two great families uniting land, power, and money and her own wishes would not be considered. She would not be 'forced' at least in the old way's that she'd heard about but she would marry who she was told to.


And frankly She was the best of the marriage candidates at Court and so to have nothing said was a bit distressing as well as cause for self-pity.


Taking a few steps back and putting her hands on her hips she looked up at her ancestress and into those dark eyes and said aloud


"There is more of You in Me Madam that lies out of sight and I mean to set that free!"


Her voice, quiet though it was, did echo a bit so any that might be close enough would have heard it .......

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The passageway that the portrait gallery was, was one commonly enough used; a handy shortcut even past eyes of cerulean and ultramarine, and smiles that remained perfectly in place, the portraits of these that had come before.


This Earl was upon transit through the gallery, when he noticed a young pretty stood regarding a painting. His approach afforded him with time enough to appreciate the wealth visible about the woman. Woman? Yes she was grown enough to be considered one. Though young, yes plainly so. Though she had a quietness about her that was appealing. And then he saw her lips silently move in saying something to herself, and upon a echo, gifted the words to his ears.


He was within proximity enough now - and so the gentleman, dressed in a costume of navy blue, with detailing of light blue and silver embroideries at turned back cuffs & lapels, paused his patent leather step. A smile tugged at his lips of her prayer, though he supposed she might be embarassed for the words had not been intent for any others...


"Freedom calls to us all, though rarely is it expressed so eloquently." he said, his eyes shifting away from the young woman of gold, and towards the painting that might be her muse.


Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury.


"Ah, England's original patroness of glass." the words slipped past his lips (this meeting seeming serendipitous for that, for he himself had taken in a master of glass blowing to his '78 arts residency). A pause. "... but I dare say that is not what you refer to my lady." he amended his speech, and here turned to bow with introduction, "George Hardwick, Earl of Chichester, at your service."


Beribboned and stockinged leg extended forwards along with elegantly offered lace-cuffed hand, with intents to brush lips past her knuckles if hand was offered.

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Startled she turned half way her eyes a bit wide as they took in the Gentleman that stood before her. Resplendent in both Attire and Faultless Manner.


"Have you been there - Harwick Hall I mean. And it truly is a wonderous sight especially on good days when the sun shines and the light dances on the wooden floors."


She blushed a bit then was quick to add her own introduction with a nice curtsey


"Frances Cavendish." Extending one slim hand for his salute. 'I know of You of course and can not think why we have never met - Court is much a small place after all - and if we have then forgive my memory of it."


Her eyes took his measure as she stood for all she was a quiet thing in manner and movement and excellent student of much teachings. He would find intelligence in her steady gaze and lack of articiface as well. She was like a pool in the forrest clean and fresh and untouched.


"You overheard my muttering but tis not an ill thing so do not apologize. This is hardly a private space after all."


She turned back to face the portrait


"She is my Great Great Grandmother on my Lord father's side - he being the son of William the first Duke of Newcastle and her own grandson. I have not come to say a greeting in some months. No doubt you will find me quite silly and childish in that regard but I have an admiration for Her and would much like to imagine that I too can be as Strong."


There was a touch of wistfulness in her words.

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He'd given her a fright, her brown eyes widened like a startled fawn, but she quickly recovered her decorum. George replied with voice warm (of unstated apology), "I have never ventured so far north, though your description of it has me now place it upon the list of places I shall aspire to."


Cavendish. The Earls own eyes flared, though not of fright, instead, providence of this chance meeting.


There were few families in England with more to recommend to them, Francis Cavendish was a treasure. If Chichester went through with what he was considering (denouncing his faith), a match of that calibre might be open to him.


"Might we be like cake and frosting; the best saved to the last." of their not having met before he smiled. Yes, she was a pool in the forest clean and fresh and untouched. How had they not met before. Arising from his bow he admired her quiet thoughtfulness.


"I would rather we call it contemplating than muttering. I have been known to contemplate or even ruminate myself, and think it an entirely healthy practise when thoughts are too lucid to be contained all within one's own head." his lips pulled into a grin, "Perhaps it is ego, but I shall assert that all creative minds are prone to it." and he winked.


Though would a lady of Francis breeding consider a chap like him? George's breeding was impeccable, he was well stationed, his money old and his estates profitable. But he'd had a very irregular time of it during his inductions to his peerage. Passion had gotten the best of him, both of vision and etcetera.


She turned to look back at the portrait. George relaxed, and quietly scolded himself for the opportunistic thoughts. It was only a chance meeting in the hall. There was no waiting father in the wings, nor any rush to see the extremely eligible lady wed, and they had spoken but a dozen words to each other at best. Though. He felt something, her attraction? Perhaps it was imagined. He'd never been the best at gauging how women felt.


And so they stood looking at the portrait of Lady Bess.


"Greatness runs strongly in your blood, I would not be at all surprised if you have strength of equal measure. Strength is one of those things that is not always apparent, not until tested does the calibre of ones convictions truly shows." Why did she admire strength so? Did she feel weak, helpless? It would surprise him if she did.


"Or, strength can be expressed in a desire, in a wish. I would suggest, Lady Frances, that your being stood here with a vision of hope shows you have strength within. How many other ladies make no plan for themselves at all. The first step to achieving anything is to visualise it."


Was he lecturing? He hoped not. Perhaps she'd object, and flounce off down the hall in a huff. The Earl of Chichester had a terrible weakness for someone in need, and her wistful thoughts of strength called to his nobler self to help.

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"I have but been there three or four times as it belongs to the Devonshire side but tis my understanding that any may call when the Family is not in residence."


She clarified her position so he might know to which side she belonged.


Her smile was as natural to her as breathing yet it was often withheld but it was gifted to the Earl as she listened to his claim to this chance meeting between them.


"I have not been compared in such a manner before by anyone at first meeting but tis a fine compliment so I shall accept it Lord Chichester."


She turned back to the portrait to study it again


"Both ideas have merit and can so be argued. Tis truth that I come from a Great Family but that does not guarantee anything. Many can claim such and yet by behavior or action destroy said Greatness in a single blow. In my case I have yet to be 'tested' in the way described but I do not think I would alter my private beliefs."


Her voice was a nice pitch neither too loud or quiet and her speech unmared by lsip or stuttering so he would have no difficulity in understanding anything she said even if they were not directly facing each other.


"Yet I fear I lack true Strength - mayhap tis how I was bound by teachings and word - to have total obidence and never question? I am older now and long out of the schoolroom. Here, at Court, what was spoken of there is not the same. Here there is Worry. Here there can be Disgrace. Even Betrayal."


"You call it Desire then? Is that what I mean as well? Do I stand here admiring the Lady for all that she achieved and so wish for that? Will I have strength to stand aganist my Lord father if I am to be wed to a man twice my age or one widowed with tiny babes that need a new Mother? Can I be disobedient and firm in the face of that? I wonder."


"To visualize as you suggest .... To imagine that I too have some of Her Blood in me .... Would be a task both daunting and foolish. Even more so to think that I can succeed."


"Since you spoke freely I have done the same. I hope you have not take offense My Lord by the plainess of my words. If so then upon our next meeting - which I shall hope for - I shall not take offence at the coolness of that reception."


Her words were Brave but beneath her fine gown her heart beat quick and if he looked close enough he might notice the small tell-tale sign just at the base of her neck on the left side where a tiny pulse beat benaeath her creamy skin. It took all her will to not have run away from this man and to offer her thoughts up to a stranger who in all probality would steer clean from her path.


Hers was a confidence that had to be earned yet she had taken to him as if a person so well known that it was a common thing to speak as both had. She knew little of the Earl save for Court Gossip but believed only half then half again. Had seen him in Parliament and at functions but that was all.


She would like to find out more but then that idea was pushed aside. He was, after all, a Catholic and so any association beyond this was not to be allowed. The idea crept into her thoughts so suddenly that she nearly cried out - was this meeting perhaps her first TEST that might show her strength in persuing an acquaintance with the man?


Could it be possible?

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"Derbyshire is a long way to travel to visit a house only." He met her eyes, head tipped and he grinned of the unspoken suggestion.


"Of that I am pleased, for I would hate to think I thought in cliches." he clicked his tongue of the simile he'd created for them.


Frances was easy upon the eyes, and his own gaze remained on her a moment longer as her focus returned to the portrait. Noting her fine profile and slender arc of neck. He remembering his desire to paint wild haired Wilhelmina, he wondered how he might paint gentle and gracious Frances instead.


"Your vision is clear." he agreed, at length turning to look back at the portrait again, "Birth right sets much in place, but the man or woman holds the duty to distinguish themselves in it. Like your muse; it is not who she was born of that you admire, is it. But what she became." It was a surprising conversation to stumble into, this thoughtful girl so full of concern.


She seemed to wrestle with the ideals of the world shed been taught of in her lessons, now that she tried to align those things with what she discovered in life itself. Perhaps she had suffered in some way, or seen another suffer. Betrayal as not something commonly fretted about by young women, or least, he'd never heard Mirtel worry about that sort of thing.


A compulsion had the Earl say, "I shall not deny that there is darkness that we are rarely prepared for, yet may I say, Lady Francis, that there may be light unexpected too. Here at court, amidst the unmarked perils, you might discover helping hands offered too. Should you ever suffer a betrayal, and I pray not, know that my hand would be there to assist. Though really, I am none so unique, for the noble hearts of many of courts gentlmen would find satisfaction in mending any injury to fair lady."


"No, I'd not call it 'Desire' per se." realising his error, Geroge glanced behind him to check no passer buy thought he was trying to seduce the gentle lass with such words. "but a desire, more, a wish, perhaps more correctly a goal."


But then she talked of standing up to a father, who might wed her against her wishes. Possibly it was speculation, 'what ifs'. Or could she know of some arrangements being made in her family? Either way, as she realised, it was discomforting - and her apology was given as quickly as the words had been said.


"Ahh..." the polished gentleman faltered some, before he claimed, "I pray that your match, when it is made, is one that tends to the treasure in your heart. That is shall be a match that bolsters your spirits and adds to your latent strength. Yet as for refuting your father, I would warn against it, although I can hardly talk. Only after it is lost does one come to realise that there is naught as precious as ones family. What son or daughter does not want their fathers approval deep down?"


His voice had dropped, that he was speaking very quietly now. "So I would suggest that it is your strength of intellect you may exercise, that you might convince your Father over to your point of view."


"There. I have been rude and spoken inappropriately too. We are even now perhaps." Chichester gave a lopsided smile. "In the very least, coolness is not a manner I would adopt towards you." and the Earls smile grew wider still, tugging tighter then relaxing as he inwardly laughed at how perfectly pleasant this was.

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His voice had lowered just as hers had and she knew the sincerity of his words.


"Duty. Yes I know this word clearly. Tis a thing bred into my very bones - to know full well Who I am and What I represent. So I suppose in a way tis the same thing. You are preceptive My Lord in guessing that I seek to 'become' some how changed."


He then said his own speech and from it Frances concluded that he was speaking from personal experiences and his offer to aid her made her turn to face him, one hand reaching out to gently touch his forearm, then letting it rest there.


"I feel as if your words come from some place deep within, as if there have been hurts, that have left a mark. I am sorry to have rememebrance of them made by me."


Her brown eyes held his full of concern. Thinking that she might have caused him some pain made her act without thinking. No one had ever spoke to her like this before and so she had nothing to compare by. And just what it was that prompted her to take such a liberty she would think much on later.


"No. I think that few Gentlemen would make such an offer without wanting something in return Lord Chichester. I am Court bred and know the attraction of the name Cavendish and how it draws people. What you offered is different and I thank you for it. I shall Pray too that Betrayl does not seek me out."


Her hand rested still on his arm and she liked how it felt. How the touch of a man's arm was so unlike her own in its strength. Able to cause hurt yet offer protection as well. And this encounter was nothing like the one she'd had with Lord Langdon over the Summer. Where she had been set a-flutter by his presence, had realized later that she had over-reacted to the conversation and assumed things not ever likely to happen. Lord Chichester was all together different.


"Ah. Well I do not think to marry for Love yet would like to hope that some fondness will grow over time!" Her light chuckle followed and she withdrew her hand from his arm. "It would be an untruth if I said those were things that i wished for as well."


"I am a Cavendish and my place is established. I shall remember your words about my Lord Father and much doubt that I would ever have courage enough to gainsay him at all. Your words are wise and yet I sense behind them lie loss. I am not the type to pry so do not feel the need to offer reasons."


She had lowered her voice to match and her words were serious but plainly said.


"True. I am well educated as befits my Rank so there is that. Do you think twas how the Countess managed it? Three husbands and fortunes greater than the last. Power and a place at Court. The Duke my Father is also educated and I would have to be skilled to best him but there is a challange in it - put like that."


She looked again to the portrait perhaps trying to gain some hidden meanings then back to the Earl to smile up at him again.


"So Pax has been achieved then? Ah - such words will only increase the curosity of my sex My Lord so best take care. The next meeting may have me asking you to explain just what feelings you would have."


Her teasings were gently done and if she had but realized it Frances was putting her 'education' to work by the way in which her calm flirtations were being directed at the Earl.

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He was pleased that she dubbed him perceptive. "I am an artist, my lady, as such it is my craft to see beyond the shimmering surface - for an artist need capture more than the mere appearance of things, but to those emotions that beckon the very heart."


Perhaps this was typified by the very portrait that they looked at now, the artist revealed more than a well dressed woman, but by turn of face and glint of eye, he showed the spirit she had held in life.


He spoke, and yes, from personal experience. He and his father had ... well. Yet it came as a surprise that she touched his arm in a gesture of empathy. The Earls eyebrows rose. His lips twisted to a smile while tipped his head of it, though he made no effort to prevent the familiarity at all. His hand moved, almost involuntarily in fact, and he found himself placing hand over hers to pat a reassurance. "I am not distressed of your mention, though you are correct that I rue that I never found that look we all crave in my own fathers eyes."


It was a moment. Held. And hardly wishing to break this connection discovered, George innovated a method to prolong it: turning, he gestured with free hand, "Shall we stroll?" his elbow crooked, and it would be the simplest movement for her to slide her hand up to claim that bent arm for a walk along the hall.


It was pleasant to be thought well of, and she did that for he.


"You are often bothered by those vultures, those sycophants that would be so eager to gain a foothold with your family?" Am I such a man? He wondered, and hoped not. It was not a bad thing for an eligible bachelor in his circumstance, to see the young lady as desirable match - how could he help it but measure her against his ideals for a future Lady Chichester?


Court is all about connections, and he'd been giving thought to his need to make a match for the longest time now.


"The heart craves a pairing." he gave calm comment to her more girlish expressions. He understood, he thought. "My sister felt similarly, I think. She wanted to do what was best, with ambition enough to impress her peers, duteous to satisfy the family, and yet too she sought a gentleman she could believe in I think, and to trust. Her match was not the one I had nominated, but she is very content."


"Hmm... what do you think? If it were education, then you need find her study books. If it was something else, then perhaps not?" He quizzed, to see where her thinking would take her.


"Yes pax." he liked the term and repeated it, then chuckled at the daring she made. "In which case, I had best prepare some likely story, some alibi - for the truth of it might pink my ears lady Frances. Suffice for now I need confess that your continued talk of a future meeting pleases my soul greatly."

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"An Artist? Really - I am surprised at that - but your reference to Hardwick now makes sense to me. You paint then or so you do something else?"


She still spoke in a lowered tone but there was interest as well.


"I am glad that you suffer no ill feelings from what I have said Lord Chichester for I am not like to cause a hurt for the Sport. Yet oft times I have thought that some sought to make Sport of me for tis so easy as I am seen as meek and mild."


Twas then that he offered her the use of his own arm and she without thought slipped her own thru his although she was sad to lose his touch on her hand. Her heart skipped a beat and she thought her countance must be tinged red but dared not show it as she allowed him to led the way.


She gave a small in deferent 'shrug' at his question


"I have had occassion as I have said but no, never anything outright, rather tis a subtile thing by gesture or a well placed word or two. But the Duke is formidible so not many will risk that displeasure." She smiled a bit risking a glance his way.


"What is she like, your sister, Lady Mirtil? I remember seeing her and she was full of Life or so it always appeared. Does it? I mean our hearts craving a pairing. What a nice way to phrase it yet there is oft times disappointment and so I Hope for a good contract and that I will Please Him and will be a Good Wife and Mother."


"I am not so naive My Lord to think that who ever He might be will treat me well always. But I shall demand Respect if nothing else and once a son or two is born well, then, it would not be so bad. I hope that your sister finds that in her marriage. Has she gone far from here then?"


The Countess returned as a topic then.


"Hmmm. I would think such a find near impossible for tis been too long. But I know that there are journals kept but they too are out of my reach. I think Presence was much her Point and how she was able to achieve much. Plus a temper or so I have always been told! But of most import I think was her ability to Observe. To Listen. To keep her own Counsel."


"Mayhap that is the way I needs must go as well?"


Her question waited for his answer.


That he accepted her 'pax' made her happy. She walked beside him as if it had been a long-time habit their steps matched ....


She stopped suddenly a hand going to that area where her heart beat beneath and for a moment her face lost some color as she looked up at him her eyes filled with surprise. How was it to have such thoughts on this first encounter that were impossible to believe? He was a Stranger to her yet her heart had sung out at his touch and word and his teasing. What was the matter with her? Why did she not want this moment to end but continue onward?

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She drew a connection to an earlier comment, one he guessed was incorrect. He did not want to paint the locale when empty, any more than he'd like to visit it then. No, it seemed a place to visit when full and alive with family - but he was certainly not going to invite himself. He left her harmless misunderstanding to be, and replied to her question. "Yes I paint, oils, a little watercolours at times, and have books and books full of chalk pastel sketches. They are practically a diary really." he halted himself then, and pulled back to the present with a smile.


"And I have an artist-in-residence programme out at Dulwich there. The term is one year, everything is paid for for them, so they may have the ultimate luxury of advancing their craft without the necessity to bend to the desires of patrons. The first year is nearing it's end, and the new shall start in February. One of this years artists is a glass worker, glass happened to be an interest of your muse also." he brought back to their topic du jour: Lady Shrewsbury.


An expression came to his face then, one of disbelief mixed with amusement there of. "Meek and mild? I wonder if such people happened to have their eyes closed?" a teasing eyebrow rose, "Its been my experiance that no woman is truly meek and mild, that even the finest exhibition of neutrality is but a gossamer screen beneath of which waters run deep." kindness was in his tone, for she had revealed her fear.


"I have witnessed that what we most think of, is easy to discover nearby. It is like the concern over it transforms it into existence before our own eyes." In seasons past George had been afraid of being a pariah, scared that he'd be ostracised by all. His fear had been a self fulfilling prophesy. Now, with calm at his breast, and hope in his eyes, this too was what he now saw.


And she took his arm, and all was well. George's pace was of a turtle, the pair ambled up the hall.


"Perhaps that is your blessing, a man too timid to approach the Duke is hardly worthy of you." In the self serving side of the Earls mind, her revelation was good news. Still. It was but early. He had rushed often enough before, and that never ended well. Gently gently might grow true substance.


"A brothers opinion is biased of course." he gave a smile as she asked of Mirtel. "She is charming, sings like an angel and plays the harp as well. But she is also rather bossy to a brother and does not take his direction at all. I love her dearly, but we row terribly. Since her marriage my life has been much calmer."


Hearts craving a pairing. In reflection it was a pretty turn of phrase. George smiled of her compliment, he did think it true, and equally, understood the duty of those of their class.


He idly wondered if she thought of him as she spoke of that?


"It might be my own ignorance, but the thing I think I would most enjoy, would be a warmth of camaraderie, with the knowing that it might last a long time. Perchance an evening out, to some banquet or ball, then to return home with company, it seems a fine prospect to me - talk of those met, of this and that. Friendship I suppose, which is hardly something guaranteed either, yet I would hope that mutual consideration and kindness would be a fine basis for... and, imagine it, a friendship that is invoked by God to last ones entire lifetime. Till death departs."


Yet then they were speaking of Mirtel again, it was the more correct topic.


"They have settled abroad, she wrote to say they shall never return to England." George did not show any emotion of that. It had distressed him when he learnt of it. It was now one of those topics he tried to leave behind.


"Pah!" a puff of breath escaped his lips, laughed, his voice speaking more honestly "I hope not temper."


Though her life was her own to choose. George had simply suffered a good deal under women's tempers in the past, and so he could not recommend it. "Observation is a hallmark of intelligence, as is to be able to listen, and keep ones own council. You seem to be upon the right road already.


"Have you fathomed how it might begin?" was the next question surely... "from what arose the Countesses catalyst, catapult even, to greatness?"


But then he was softly teasing, and she flirted, to which he returned equally, perhaps more so for she was silenced. Stopping, and hand upon her heart, eyes so open, vulnerable even. Intently focussed upon him, and receptive. Another man would have kissed her.


George smiled softly upon her, and whispered, "you are a treasure."


One he would like to keep. She was delicate, even a little fragile, and then so much more.


"Lady Frances, is it too bold if I ask for a place on your dance card for the next ball?"

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He spoke of how he fit into the Artist Life and she guessed that he was Proud of it.


"I think that a good thing to do Lord Chichester - to offer those the chance to learn their Craft in the hopes of reconigation. But is this a not well know thing? How have I never heard of it before now? Do you have a Committee or some such thing - I think I might know of some who would be interested to learn more."


"Yes. Glass was indeed her Glory. May any come to this place in Dulwich? Might I visit?"


She asked him in her quite voice but clearly with interest.


"For Shame then My Lord in your thinking. There are MANY who are meek and mild and so also too afraid of a shadow and so say hardly any but five words at a time. But if you speak of me then tis another complement that I shall accept. I try to not hide myself but tis a hard thing and Court takes a keen interest in any that provides Sport. Yet determined I am to no longer be afraid."


"But I would not wish for such a man either. To be ruled by a husband so timid would be, would be, there I can not even think of a word! Why imagine how useless he would be to the Duke or to me. No I think it best that I seek out a man who has strength but humility, will be respectful of me and allow me to be his comfort as he will be mine."


"No doubt a girlish thought but tis my thought." A touch of rebellion in her words.


Had she but know it she was giving away more of her self bit by bit to the man beside her with such ease of manner that if it were anyother man would have made her blush and hide herself away for a month in embarrassment.


"My Older brother will no doubt disagree. I doubt such favorable things will fly from his lips about me but mayhap about Arabella for she is still a babe an four! Henry and I are but a year apart and in some ways alike. I think he must wed afore me and from that I think my own fortunes shall be decided."


He spoke then of what she assumed was his own desire in a Wife and she listened intently but then grew sad as she realized that too great an obstacle lie between them - his Religion. And yet there was much they seemed to share. Dare she continue?


He was sad about his sister and so she pressed no further and did not comment when he said that she would never return to England.


"I learned early to do that - keep my own counsel. Save for here with you. Because I blend in with the room people tend to talk around me and I schooled myself to be still and calm. To listen and observe as you say. The Countess? Well mayhap she had the desire to be as a Man - free to choose her way be it in marriage or anything else? Few gainsayed her yet she made an enemy of the Queen and I think suffered too."


"The World is ruled by those of your sex My Lord and shall always be so. There are few opportunities for those of my sex - wife mother widow - twas the same back then yet She managed and so I like to hope that I too may, in some small way leave, my mark."


you are a treasure


Had she heard it wrong? Whispered as he looked down at her. His eyes held intelligence but also so much more and she found herself wanting to help ease his hurts if he would but let her.


She smiled up at him as she answered the last question put


"Indeed tis very Bold of you Lord Chichester. Yet I shall hold one and gladly."


Something was happening to her that she did not undrstand fully. Her old self would have immediately thought the wrong things as she had done with Lord Langdon. But standing here with this Gentleman who was quiet as she in manner yet so wise in speech and thought, allowing her to ramble on with things reserved not for strangers, and offering her counsel and encouragement as well as interest.


She had given her heart to him right then and there.

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She read him correctly, and George repressed a smile as she commended the project.


"That is because it is in it's infancy. An endeavour like this may take ten years to become renown in higher circles, and be fully established. It shall be the work of my lifetime, and I hope may exceed that mortal limitation. But to the artists within England, word has quickly enough spread. I had perhaps 40 applicants this year." he spoke calmly of the exercise of which he had much patience in.


"Committee? Well no. What would a committee do, do you think?" he asked cautiously.


"Perhaps in spring, when the roads are not so appalling, dangerous even. I do have an exhibition planned for next year, although I had thought to host that here in the city somewhere, and the artworks for it are not of English origin."


She softly reproved his disbelief of meek and mild women, he fought a grin as she rightly guessed that he thought to encourage her.


"What would you take sport in, by compare?" he came to ask in follow on to her mention of the less than charitable incline of her peers.


He fell silent then. The manner that she described her ideal match, had George think it could be he. And he, felt blatant enough in how his own voiced imagining might have been she. He held his tongue, and walked a little while. The thought was pleasant to imagine. And it was a rare thing for the Earl to stroll quietly with a woman.


In a round about way she then revealed that there was not urgency, that she expected her brother to be married before she. George nodded, considering this, and thinking perhaps he had time to build a case for himself that might appeal to a choosy father. He looked at her again...


"Perhaps a committee might tend to planning of things such as finger food and wine for art events? If there was to be a committee, and, say if you were to be it's head, then we might need to meet quite often to discuss the progress? Properly chaperoned of course, your honour is most important to me."


"I need mention that I have asked Lady Habersham to be patroness to the spring exhibition." he thought to add.


He smiled quietly as, midst it all, she mentioned her omission of usual restraint today. It was a sensation that he felt too. "I wonder if it is the blessed season that has this marvel of... well I hardly know the word to explain it. But that there is a sensation of trust between us, and peace."


But he'd asked her of what might have been the catalyst, and she attempted a reply. It was a reply of two sides, good and bad. "Then perhaps you need to find your own path forwards, for I would loath to see you change into mannish ways. We are selfish creatures I fear, and often enough insensitive. Why even right now for instance, I am thinking of how I would like to keep you all to myself, and I should not be surprised that if you cried tears of upset of it, I would contently kiss their saltiness as an elixir. See how brutish we can be Lady Frances?"


Yet he was not fully serious, as the glint of eyes betrayed. Her thirst to be known for something was something he would actually encourage. Lord knew he understood the need for a cause.


"... what mark shall you want to leave? If you will forgive my intrusion, I would put forth a suggestion: female education might be your cause. You have a keen understanding of the limitations of your gender, alongside an appreciation for those who have gone beyond, or risen above. I should wonder then, if you commence a path for others who come after. For those future young ladies that would stand in this hall wishing for more than what is currently defined for them. Imagine, Mistress Frances, if one day your name was heralded as the Mother of the Modern woman; synonymous with grace, refinement and achievement."


"Perhaps your goals shall take a lifetime to achieve also. When one finds a cause that they love, then time becomes inconsequential, for the love of the journey itself is enough. And the goal. Yes. One day it shall be reached."


There in a pause there was a moment, whispered words, a question, and assent.


The Earl felt a sense of elation. Straight of back and studious of features, he thanked with a nod. "I might only wonder now, to which dance you shall allot me? The first, might suggest that I may arrive to escort you to the ball prior. While the last, is oft for favourites. Perhaps in the middle somewhere is the safer dance to give a gentleman if a lady does not want her friends tongues to wag, or her fathers eyes to look overly? At least, not until her own opinion of the gentleman is fully developed." He looked at her face as he spoke, desirous of some sort of confirmation, of the sort that women simply did not give.


If he'd needed more of a shove to visit Norfolk and discuss Anglican conversion, this was certainly it.

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She had thought it something establshed that place at Dulwich but t'would seem still in infancy.


"So tis a Lifetime Quest then - this place at Dulwich - I believe it will be most talked about and highly thought of simply because You are its creator Lord Chichester. That many applicants? Why tis an Army then that sets up camp and the General that leads the troops is yourself!"


"Well there must be such a thing for how else will donations or interest be kindled if not thru a 'Committee? You needs must be practicle about these things My Lord and keep organized and having the aid of like-minded people."


Said with the simplicty of a young woman taught to manage large households and Estates of a future husband.


"Spring? Yes I would like much to go then for all will be abloom with new Life and flowers and the grass will smell sweet underfoot. So long a time? A year is far away. Will you not grow impatient?"


The Gallery was long and so this conversation might last a while yet and he seemed to wish to walk and Frances would gladly pace back and forth at his side for as long as he permitted.


She did not answer his question about comparisons on the subject of "Sport" prefering to let in pass. And then the subject of Committees was broached again filling in that gap.


"Well. You will have to be selective in who will be asked I think - for it will be a draw that will attrack many simply for those with desires of making use of their name coupled with yours with no thought to actual 'help' but will take Credit for all. Me? In Truth?"


She smiled up at him in delight that such a thing might be.


"Hmmm ... I should first seek out those with proper knowledge of what ere is to be set out at Dulwich. There are many that collect but few have any real study's I think and simply commission portraits and pay agents to aquire all sorts of things from far off lands. Like Norfolk did with his Cabinet. But that is not what your Desire is."


"Secondly there must be ...."


She stopped abruptly as she realized that she had over-stepped her place and looked down at the wooded floor more to hide her 'blush' yet unready to hear his rebukes. But she had told him of her wish to become stronger so she raised her brown eyes and met his adding


"Tis a fault I have. An idea given to me and I start to think on it - which was why I made such an excellent pupil! I beg your pardon."


""Lady Habersham? I suppose she is known to me but I will have to see her face to remember yet is she an elderly Lady of some bearing .... Ah. Then she must indeed be a fitting choice."


He had said her honor was an important thing to him and he would see all the Rules

to be obeyed and that pleased her.


"Like a Christmas Miricle perhaps? Yes your words are indeed rightly said. I too feel that as well."


He spoke then of the ways of those of his sex and his words flowed sweet as Honey but Frances was a creature of Court and he had given her condidece to tease back


"Yes I note how well and fast your tongue is but have a care lest you trip upon it."


Her smile was impish in its sending and her eyes danced with humor sure that he would take no offense.


"My Mark?'


She grew silent and let his pace continue her brow a bit furrowed as she thought over his suggestion.


"I could answer simply with Wife and Mother but then tis not enough. What you suggest would indeed take a lifetime and the minds of Men would need to change as well. I was lucky in that the Duke my father was easily pressed and had sound ideas on education of girls. Others' are and will not be as lucky."


"Suppose such a thing were possible ... much like pig's flying ... then I should like to establish a place where not just those of Rank and Gentry might be sent but those of Middle Class and even Tradesman's daughters. Why must only Sons be taught and offered places at University or the Law Courts? Why I think there must be many daughtes that are smarter than some boys and would outshine them!"


Her speech showed clear her age and how the very idea had captured her but then she grew serious and gave a small shrug of one shoulder.


"But then tis all just a make believe anyway and yet I thank you for allowing me to Dream a moment. No I think I shall have to take some time to ponder this more but I would so like to have my Portrait hung here and have those words said of me."


"A dance is easy enough to plan out. It all depends on the Gemtlemen in question and what one hopes to achieve or not. Then much like a Campagine is planned the steps are laid out and the advances made."


She teased him again on purpose sure in the fact that he would seek her out no matter.


"My opinion of you My Lord is already formed and cannot be altered I am afraid. I do care what others' think and say and I will never bring Dishonor to my name of family yet to your suggestion of the middle I shall say 'no'. Instead, may I have the third? I should like to exchange Greetings before. That way there can be no talk once my Lady Mother or my sister Ablemarle has your Salute."


She had told him the truth in simple language as all of her sex knew it to be.


"I will be in moss green velvet with silver lace."


She smiled up into his eyes her hand tightening ever so slightly on his coat where it rested in the crook of his arm.

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And so she explained why she thought he needed a committee, and he gave a laugh as he understood. "Ah, my lady, well this my advantage - that I amwith funds to not require outside funding. Thus my enterprise is my own to manage, which is my joy and pleasure - for I do not truly know that I would take well to a committee with their attempts of 'guidance'. No, this thing is my own. I am happy to wait till my dotage before I pass over the reins to manage it."


And like he'd explained to her, this was something he loved, it was not work to him, it was a happiness.


"No, I am not impatient for the exhibition." he smiled upon her words, they were the words of a youth. And he, nearing 30, was past rushing the years along. "Soon enough spring shall be upon us, the work of the winter shall blossom into fullness. The transformation is a wondrous thing, made all the more magnificent for the time we spend with the world covered in a blanket of white snow. I'd not sooner rush the exhibition, than I would force open a daffodil before it's time." He was talling her something else really, of the style of courtship he desired.


Still, he was damn tempted to have a committee for some sort of drummed up reason, it only to please her with it. Her smile at the thought of it was sweet. Though like every woman he'd met, the meek and mild fell away fast, and her force showed. (Fie, and she'd just scolded him for asserting just that!) She would organise him completely, if given a chance. That might suit some men, but George was over sensative to it.


"You are obviously a very capable woman, Lady Frances. When you do find your goal, be it a committee or something else, I am certain you shall be a force to recon with." Yet he realised now that, if they were to one day court, they needed to not begin with a potential conflict like this.


And the Earl continued to flirt with her, and she, showed her wit. Chichesters eyebrows rose with amusement, "Trip? Ah, but if in tumbling I heard you call out in care for me, than I would lay a bruised man with a happy heart."


"Pigs flying?" The Earl repeated her phrase with a less pleased tone. "Now that is not the spirt to evoke change is it. Where is Lady Shrewsbury's primer again? Did she voice such things? I believe not." he paused, "Yet if you disbelieve your own ability, perhaps you set a more modest goal to commence. Rather than educate all women of London, commence with those of your own class."


From where George stood, the common woman of London, daughters of merchants, sailors, cobblers and more, had less blocking the path of upward mobility than the stifled women of the noble class. Francis was a point of proof to that, for even now, wanting to be brave and achieve, she berated the very possibility of stepping outside of what she'd been taught. Pigs might fly. Who'd taught her that phrase? It was like telling someone not to even try.


Yet of the dance, she toyed with him a little. He did not mind, that was what ladies did. "And what do you hope to achieve?" he replied, while listening to her carefully, awaiting his rank in her eyes. The third. His eyes flared with appreciation. Was that the last dance? A high honour indeed! Or, might there be a fourth dance, there was sometimes a fourth dance? But, sometimes not. George was not certain if his was the highest celebration, or one down from it?!


"Then I shall be in a stone grey, of the hue that moss might grow upon, with accents of silver shared between. " a moment shared, again he thought she must be giving him the final dance.

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Oh. She had made an error. She realized that now. Her tongue had gotten the better of her and she had rattled on about Committees! She began to lose a bit of her confidence then and did not at once respond back but was silent as they paced her eyes downcast unwilling to meet his.


Knowing that she must continue she said simply


"Of course. I see that now - this endevor would indeed take Time and so twas impatient of me to think otherwise. Yet I would like much to see it as you have described it in the Spring, perhaps."


She did not know how best to respond back to his description of her. One one hand he flattered but then he might also be condemning - her experience with men was nothing and so she thought he found her overbearing. But how was she to find that out?


He seemed amused at her quip then chided her over her remarks about his own suggestion on education only to offer her another. She slowed her pace which would mean he would have to stop. She took a breath and then looked at him as she quietly asked


"You are displeased with me? Have I offended you in some manner? I can be sometime frank in my words which has seen me well reprimanded and I should be cured of it yet still it happens. I did not mean for you to think ill of me - truly. Yet I took comfort in your presence and encouragements and so I spoke freely of the things I feel."


"I wish to dance with you be it the first third or last. I want to compliment you as you would me. But now I must ask because I am unsure and I do not wish to hear you say that ... that you have changed your mind. That you have found me lacking and unsuitable after all."


Her brown eyes had begun to fill a little and if she blinked then a tear just might escape

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"Your excitement for it is endearing." the Earl replied. He did not want her to think his good opinion of her had swayed, it was simply that he was a little nervy of being organised. He felt suddenly too tall as he now bent and peered to meet her eyes, giving her a hopeful smile.


The air between them faltered and shuddered - and then she spoke of it clear and truthfully.


"No I am not displeased." he apologised, "I am at fault for being a little precious over my endeavour, that I am reluctant to... yet a part of me yearns to share of it." he was faltering now, with a concerned feeling raising to his throat. He swallowed. "A confused conflict agitates me, that I cannot wholly understand. It is you my lady, that stirs that yearning, that strikes a fear in me of loss of my heart, along with a desire, that I might share it with you." that last word came out a bit too forcefully, a little too emotionally charged. Though he might try to constrain himself, he could not. And sight of her tear after such a pledge as that, was the undoing of his promise of a gentle pace.


"Lady Frances." he drew his handkerchief from poke, it bore the initials GH. He would dab her porcelain pale skin himself, but for the inappropriate familiarity and in a public place. So instead he pressed it to her hand. "I find you to be the pinnacle of womanhood, the epitome of gentility -- a delicate and beautiful flower that I would like to attend to. Being with you today, has me thinking of first, second and third dances, not just at the next ball, but onwards and for a lifetime. It is not a committee I would like you to lead, but my very own household. It is not a scattering of foreign artists works I'd like to show you, but the works from my personal studio. Lady Frances, I did not want to, still do not want to, frighten you with intense attention, but it is indeed my singular focus that I would like to give to you... I can feel it within my soul, my life has changed from the moment of meeting you."


He paused, with a brief glance away, "Yet I need get my house in order to appeal to your family." his gaze returned with that deep intensity. "I intend to swear the oath. But no, I do not do this for you alone, it is something I have been contemplating the past year now, uncertain of how that is actually done. My last trip away, opened my eyes, I am an Englishman, the head of my church should reside, does reside, in England. I cannot in good conscience tithe to Rome."


He sought a look of understanding in her eyes / hoped he did not overwhelmed her.


"... then, I would seek your consent to ask your Father if I may court you." his eyes softened, and a tender, almost bashful smile grew. "For I would wish to conjure a perfect romance around you, my lady."

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His was such an impassioned rush of words and emotions that Frances did not at once understand the meanings of it all. The kerchief appeared and was pressed into one hand which she then dabbed at the wetness on her check before she crumbled it inside her palm intending to not return it to him. Her head went up as he spoke the last sentence and all at once she understood.




She raised eyes that were full of surprise and even shock to met his once again


"Your Praise I shall take to heart indeed and yet I ... I am unprepared for such as you describe. I too can not explain the suddeness of my feelings towards you, of how I have never took such comforts or ease of manner with another. How you allowed me to speak and then to make such a Declearation as this ... I no nought how to answer."


"You say your Life has changed by this one chance meeting and I want to believe yet how can it be possible? There is a divide between us and yet you speak as if tis the easiest thing to remedy!


His gaze was so intent that she took both of his hands into hers as if to steady him


"You do not frighten me My Lord. But I am indeed overwhealmed by the intensity of your words. I too will be plain. Tis an impossibility - this that you wish for. I would like to be that woman that is so cherished, so LOVED yet I do not think I can bear the unhappiness when it is crushed."


"You may indeed take the Oath but will you hold that aganist me? Oh perhaps not now but if we are indeed mated then mayhap later .... Will the day come when I am looked at as the cause for your unhappiness?"


She was speaking to him as if this fantastical idea was indeed something that would happen reaching into the far future seeing them as a pair.


"Yet I cannot tell you to quit. I do not want you to."


Her smile lit her up as she quietly gave him her answer.


In her heart she yearned for it to all be true but the reality of how Seperate their lives truly were made the sadness great. It would be a monumental Battle.

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He'd said too much. As he'd felt her slipping away, he'd reached too far, in desperation.


Chichester should have stuck to his first intent and gone slowly. A meeting here and there, a dance, a stroll maybe, while he continued his research into taking the oath, while time settled dust upon the turbulent days in his recent past. After some time, he could have approached her father for permission to reveal interest to her.


But he'd done it again. And here she was reeling. Shocked. Rightly so. Talking of a risk of hurt, that echoed so loudly in this unlucky-in-love Earl, that he immediately was awash with those feelings from before.


Before. Mina. Damien. Samuel. Davina.


"Forgive me my lady, I spoke far to hastily," he apologized for shocking her. "You speak very truly to be concerned of the heart, I have a terrible history in my search for a wife, and can tell you in honesty that it is a sadness unbearable to loose one whom one has hoped to build a life with. And we. Yes. You are correct. It is near to impossible. Nearer to impossible than any other suit I had ever considered. "


He swallowed.


It had taken months, arguably years, for George to recover from his loss of fiancee. He did not have it in him to loose his hopes again.


Trying to smile he recalled, "A friend of mine says I have a weakness for attempting lost causes. And this, us, is likely another. I am not good enough for you. "


Yes it was a fantastical idea, she had seen it clearer than he'd been able.


Yet even she, still felt it's allure. This affinity they had discovered between them. It was entrancing. It felt, to George, that together they, could have been happy. That together, they might have become so much more.


"Perhaps, if it is possible, you do not tell your family of my out of place words." A young lady of good upbringing was duty bound to tell her parents of conversations like this, but if she did, then it could only increase the difficulty. "Perhaps, you will allow a friendship to form, to grow, and over time, perhaps that which is currently impossible, shall become lesso? Whatever our respective futures, I would like to at least to keep you as a friend.


Although she gae him a smile, her sadness was evident, she did not believe him able to overcome the odds. It was like she knew she should resign herself to a futile hope to continue.


He Did Not Want to feel those feelings again. He did not want the pain of a notable peers rejection. What was I thinking And George, barely 6 months out of the tower, a noted Catholic, and with poor repute from breakfast to supper. He father would never hear of it. If she who knew her famiky best did not think it possible, then it was doomed from the start.


She would be matched with an impeccable bloodline, one of the old houses, where decorum was deeply rooted.


He looked at her once more, plainly disrupted, skin pale and turned a little clammy. Taking a swallow, he spoke again. "Besides, your mentor Bessie had a string of husbands, I have no desire to be a short lived figure in your own marvelous history." He was trying to make a joke.

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Those 'hurts' that she had imagined he bore were now laid bare for her to see and when he spoke of how his searchings for a Wife had gone badly, how he had made her weary and even scared caught her off guard.


"Why do you ask for forgiveness? You have done nothing that has caused me damage nor have I taken up the idea to turn and run from you."


She had recovered her composure with his words and now a small ball of anger began to form inside of her and she did not hesitate.


"So you will simply admit Defeat then? Before the Campagine has even begun you surrender the Field to those imaginings we both spoke about which might never occur. You have a History that tears my heart but how can you place me within those memories My Lord? I can not place you within all my hurts so why do you try?"


She dropped his hands from hers taking a few steps back yet remaining close enough so that only their two voices might be heard. He would take note that she held herself very erect with her head up and her brown eyes glittered with emotion as she spoke to him.


"A lost cause are we? Then if you think this truly then yes, you are not worthy of me and I am well rid of you before anything even began! Why the very nerve of you - you twist my words and form new meanings to suit. I did not say that what we share could not happen."


"If you take the Oath then you do so with your own conscience but within me will rest the idea that this will cause you sadness - no matter how much you tell me otherwise - and later, when there are children, and your mind will turn to how you were raised and ours will not follow that will distress me simply because of my Love for you."


"Do you not understand?"


She wanted to shake him badly as if that would clear his thoughts.


"I do not share everything with anyone. My Lady Mother hardly ever enquires and the Duke would not think to at all so that is not a worry. I shall expect you to play Court for that is how tis done - and if your forget then I shall be most happy to instruct."


"I would marry you tomorrow if possible. But I know there is much work to be done. By the both of us. You needs must do what ere has to be done to ease your mind. I shall put no time frame onto you. Can you, in all Truth, be strong? You will need it as will I - to convience the Duke my Father that you are the best match for me is as I said nealy impossible but we have the time."


"Do not look at me as if I shall wilt and descend to the floor at any second! I am stronger than I look and besides I do not intend to have a 'string of husbands' as you put it but only one. You Lord Chichester. And this IS Christmas after all, the Season of Miracles, and so I shall go to Chapel and begin to light candles and Pray for just that."


She was closer to him once again and one small hand reached out and was carefully placed palm down over the spot where his heart beat beneath - a pledge of her to him.


She may have been bold in manner and words but she too was afraid that once he heard her out HE would be the one to leave her standing there saying that no matter what she had said he could not get past all his hurt. His Pride simply would not allow it.

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Why did he ask forgiveness indeed? Perhaps it was in the memory of past relationships, ones that had failed, ones that he'd felt responsible for.


Yet the young woman before him was of a pucky sort - if he'd thought she did not think him able of it, he realised now he'd understood her wrong. His brow furrowed, eyes that had seen too many tears sought hers as a different reality was revealed. She would not run from him, but might even run towards instead?


She seemed so admirable at that moment, worthy of being cast in bronze, stood with fine posture... and the angle of her head, set of her shoulders, tilt of chin. Frankly, he thought her beautiful. And her call to him, not words of futility, but of vision, and cause.


"Lady Frances." his own eyes gleamed, and here he stepped towards, reaching for her hand. "The cause is only lost if you don’t have belief in me. The earlier trepidation in your voice before, I misread as uncertain confidence. Yet if you are in favour of me. Then I would face any obstacle, quench any fire.” He stood a little taller as he spoke, “Your company today, I find inspiring, though that is not the only qualification I have looked for in a match. Perhaps these challenges before us shall be test, perhaps that shall be the proving of my worthiness to you. To your family. To all of Court.”


"Upon the Oath, I insist that the choice was upon the winds long before today. When I came into my title two years ago, I discovered that my effectiveness was hampered by limitations that I came to begrudge. I wish to convert, to fully embrace my place at The House, and... today, to meet you, with this affinity felt between us - it is a sign to me my lady, that it is a course blessed by the Lord. And now," he smiled looking down upon her, her words fanned the embers he'd had kept deeply hidden, "and now you speak of our children, and, it is nothing but joy to think of them raised without the conflict that I have felt. They shall be blessed of us, as we might be blessed of them."


"Have you time? For I cannot see it resolved quickly, why really, I would prefer for your family to see that our affection endures, with a constancy that shall become undoubtable, a foundation set that none might question. That when I come to ask for your hand, all the world shall see it is the most natural thing, quite as natural as I feel it between us now. Lady Frances." he lifted her hand to his lips, and kissed her knuckles then. They were clasped about his handkerchief that he had no intention of relieving her of, rather, he was pleased she possessed it still. "Yet not too long I hope."

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He said her name first then reached and took hold of her hand as he gazed down at her. It would appear that he had at last understood what she had meant and for that she had to smile for that was cause.


"Time is but the distance it takes to achieve ones' Goal so indeed I do have it. There is no rush as what is felt between us both has been spoke and so we both work towards that end - I expect there to be obsticals, a great many at first, but by Summer let there be Hope that they have been overcome."


"The Oath is a matter of your conscience and yet I needs must now be resolved that this is a thing done out of much contemplation for it effects your very Livelyhood and in the end mine as well. That it twas no rash decision nor impassioned thoughts exchanged here that had made you take that direction I shall accept."


"I should like that as well - to have Court look with Kindness upon Us and make merry at our Marriage and then to offer praise too at the wisdom of our actions. But things said here are much like the tide - they come and go depending on the currant."


Her words now held a touch of seriousness and for a moment her eyes drifted as if she looked into the distance. A small shrug followed and her countenance of before returned.


"You are foolish Lord Chichester - if I did not find favor in you then this entire meeting would have been given short shift with nought but the nicities of Greetings shared between us. Ah. So I then meet a few of those 'qualifications' on this list of yours? Pray, tell me about the rest!"


His kiss came then and she accepted it with a sudden shyness but she held onto his kerchief still with no intent to return it. It was his first gift to her and it have now become a Treasure.


"Let us not think on the length of Time. Might we make a plan to meet again? Let us use this place when the desire is great to see each other - for I shall not be sastisfied with only a glimpse I warn you."


"My days shall start and end with the thought of You and I ... I am anxious for that moment when I may answer back with your own name - George."


So softly whispered yet undoubtly heard by him. It felt right his name from her lips and the look she gave him would make her feelings very clear.

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His shoulders eased, his smile grew - she gracefully spoke of patience, and his heart further warmed.


"The oath is a thing more between men, I think." he responded quietly, "yet know that in changing, I myself shall not change, my character and willing for this cause that we pair become, shall not budge."


It needed to also be said, "My lady, you cannot know the joy you give me in saying you shall accept my choice in this."


"Ah, you are realist." he chuckled then that she understood the fickle theatre that was Whitehall. "this is true, our peers voices cannot be counted upon, there are many enough that would put out an eye rather than see another’s happiness, and yet To Endure Together, is a prospect that I find inspiring never the less."


The young lady then surprised him by telling him off that he was foolish to doubt. "Yes I am foolish to ladies ways, I shall need you to instruct me of them!" George gave a laugh of it, amused of her daring speech, yet his eyes upon hers held interest. "I relish the prospect of such lessons." and he was smiling upon her, proud of her, even a little proud of himself.


"The qualifications I have sought..." it was the least he could do to indulge her question, his voice warm and low. "are Grace and Gentility, which is evident in your every move. A Bright mind that is curious, which are the very things that brought you to this hall today. Composure and clarity, I need hardly define your possession of these things. A fine companion in Conversation, yet with whom prospect of sitting in idle quietness is equally appealing. But to the foremost, and the thing I barely appreciated was my deepest desire, is one who might trust in me, and me in her." He felt he could trust her completely.


He'd kissed her knuckles. It was a unexpected desire though, that he thought of a kiss to her lips also. He released her hand with a reluctance that he hardly understood, and did not wish to think upon. "This hall, it shall be our hall, what time do you desire?" he smiled of her idea, it was a harmless sort of intrigue, playful even. He thought to take it a step further, "Shall we make a secret message spot, perhaps tucked at the side of Lady Somerset’s frame." he could leave Frances poems and sweet nothings.


He heard her quietest whisper, and smiled of it. Her desire for the intimacy of first name was a warming thing. "In private, you may call me thus." he had a similar secret, the thought of her coming to be called Lady Chichester, his very own Countess. But he did not say as much just now, for as passionate as he might sometimes be, he was also a reserved figure. Suffice that he treated her with the regard and respect that her future title deserved.

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His words were like a balm to her heart and she knew that he must find the ending to that which he spoke about and so she would not worry - at least in his company - but would be by his side if he needed it.


"I think My Lord that you must not have met the right Ladies in all your Travels but I hardly think you are so foolish as to need 'instruction'. She teased him back.


He listed what he sought applying her to them all and for a moment she wondered if that were possible, her brow furrowing as she did so. It would casuse her to ask


"How is it possible that I am in possession of all those qualities? I mean ones' teachings are long taught at nurses knee then in schoolroom and then by example from others' and I am not so old to have learnt so much."


"How can you be so sure of me? I have surprised myself in all truth by this very encounter doing what I had never had courage to do. By my speech to Her I thought to take strength alone, by my own end as it were. Yet now here i am giving of my heart and being told that I am the companion you have sought. Perhaps tis a Dream?'


She was suddenly doubtful even after all her bravado.


His kiss made her heart beat and her face flush a soft pink as he gazed down at her. He agreed that this place was to be their meeting place and she eagerly nodded at his suggestions and almost without notice started a return to the portrait that had brought them together.


"I think She would be pleased to aid us My Lord. I think too that I should take much delight in finding such a note tucked behind the portrait. This time of the day seems right and as tis Winter not many venture here. And even it twas populated it would not seem odd for us to 'meet'."


"Might I practice it once? Here. Now?"


She gave a quick glance about their surroundings and seeing no one said "George"


To her ears it seemed to echo and perhaps it had but for now she stood with her hands clasped looking up at the man who had forever changed her life. And she knew too that no matter their ending she would always Love him.

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"Then perhaps you shall suffer further foolishnesses!" he laughed, "or perhaps there is no established way forwards. Like a masterpiece in progress, this is one of those things that grow improved with attention given to it."


George had not seriously courted before, a woman at least, he'd not been through a period of wooing. Would he be good at that? He hoped so!


And so he commenced. Imbuing qualities upon her that in the short period of knowing her, he had thought were hinted at, at least. Of that she was less certain (perhaps it was a bout of cold feet?). "These are a little cliché you think? Well it is true, my vision is less tempered by reality just yet. I have not managed my foot past the first step really, in a courtship, to have acquired much deeper insight. While not comprehensive, it is a good beginning don’t you think? I should say so at least. And..."


They were walking back towards the first painting, "... and if I discover you to be a curious blend of other things, then my heart shall be the first to rejoice of the discovery. For it is uniqueness in the end, that make us personable."


"You too may discover this of me. As you see me today, some elements of me is only guessed in your mind. When, with time, we learn the keener details of each other, I do not think we shall be at all disappointed. I pray as much in any case - in that a persons Ideals define them. I hold a esteem for my own character and judgement, that I hope you shall see also, and admire - and yes, forgive, if I ever fall short of the mark." Unsaid was that he'd do so for her.


"Ah, but do I confuse?" he apologised as he realised he was speaking around a point in a very vague way, for he was uncertain how he could express the thought more specificaly.


Reaching the portrait once more, he smiled of Frances opinion. "I agree, she would be pleased to help."


Though she seemed rather distracted with the prospect of speaking his Christian name, and did dare it in such a shy and uncertain way -- that he smiled of it, and teased, 'Once more, my lady, and with conviction."


Love, was it love? Young ladies were more prone to those declarations, voiced out loud or not. George would reserve his own mental sentiments for now, though he did wonder if he'd found someone whom he might happily build a life with, who would add a new level to his life, with whom he might stow his treasures and finest wishes with a tenderness he deeply craved.


"Tomorrow I have Lady Habersham visiting, so shall we say Friday as this same time?" Perhaps he'd leave a first note for her tomorrow.

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"You are the first man to ever say such things to describe me and so to hear them well did cause me some concern for I think you over-rate ." She shyly confessed back.


"I find that hard to believe - about your being unsure of how to 'Court' I mean. You are far more experienced and yet I like those parts that you said about discoveries. There is much in you that I suspect is kept hidden for what ere the reason and I hope that over time they will be shared with me."


She turned to face him again her eyes this time making an appraisal, searching his features and lingering here and there, before she continued.


"What I see is a man indeed Principled. Where Morals and Values are prized. One not to be take lightly. I see too that you are in some way as unsure of what is between us as I am yet willing to take the risk. I do not know you well enough yet to think ill of you and I hope I never shall. But I am not naive enough to think that we shall never fight or cause hurts."


"But I shall promise to try very hard to not become such a person that would earn such feelings and you must do the same. I will never dishonor your Name. I am not full of trickery like so many of my sex but I can and will be stubborn."


"I shall enjoy theses 'discoveries' as they are made clearer and look forward to just how you shall arrange this courtship of ours!"


He told her to say his name again.


"Very well I shall be here on Friday. George."


She smiled and a little chuckle escaped at her daring which caused her to put a hand to her lips but her eyes remained steady on his.

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"Then you shall come to be accustomed in time." the Earl replied with private amusement of her modesty, such a fetching thing, worn very well. Ought I tell her as much, and disturb her further? But instead he took pity on her, and halted his flattery for now.


Perhaps Francis was right, and he was not as ignorant to courting as he himself imagined? He had a strong sensation that praise was a large part of it, and then gifts would factor also. And naturally spending time together in conversation was important, for the discovery and measuring of each others character, learning how they would interact.


Like just now.


"We shall both make pledges in time." he replied with a warmth to his eyes, "let me retain announcement of my own for now, until I better know the shape of things, to what pledge you most need from me."


"But for now, to the planning of our courtship... for minds like ours, topics of the broadest array shall be thrilling and enlightening. I would suggest then, that we each bring a book we are currently reading, to discuss not only the topic but our own appeal towards it."


He would know more of her, and this seemed an apt way to do so. (Heaven forbid that the next meeting she fell into an awkward silence not knowing what to say - although, that did seem rather unlikely.)


And then she was speaking his name, bolder this time, though shock of it had her flush and cover her lips after. George chuckled, "I must say it is a strange thing to hear it said! Ack, it is like a new suit I suppose, and shall take some wearing in before it feels entirely comfortable. You must wear it in tenderly please, my lady." he expressed with a strange feeling over himself he did not understand.

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He made to reassure her or so she thought about becoming accustomed to his speaking of her Qualities and she nodded but did not say a reply prefering to allow him to imagine that she Would actually grow used to such a thing.


For up to now Frances had been schooled with abruptness and strong commands - some of which were made clearer by a pinch or some other small means - which was not an uncommon thing amongst those of her status - and was by far the most effective way of control. She was Obident and Respectful following along with what ere had been told or planned out but the last few months had seen a marked change in her private desires for a Life somehow different.


And now here was Lord Chichester. A man her senior by ten years plus who now declared his intent to pay court to her and even farther to speak of Marriage and children as if it were completely a natural thing! That she believed him was absolute.


He looked down at her from eyes that were bright and filled with emotion and she drew a little closer to him unaware that she had done so. Here was Strength. Here was Protection.


"You are wise indeed My Lord to chide me for running ahead with thoughts about the two of us. I shall look to you then and follow your guidance. A book? Truly? I had expected you to go in a diffrerent direction but twill sufuce. But I must then be sure to think of a topic that will capture your interests ....."


He seemed pleased with her saying his name


"It must be strange to hear another not related use your Christian name - I am used to it for that tis how i am always addressed and I suppose you too can be styled 'Lord George' for that is proper yet I think my own way suits best so I shall only say it alone - unless you have caused me to be vexed and I am impatient with you - then it shall take the form of 'Chichester."


She teased but also provided him more of her own personality and also made reference to her level of confidence in his presence.

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"Yes I propose a book." Here the Earl laughed at her gently voiced dismay, "Perhaps my lady need reconsider her belief that I am a novice at this! Tell me what you had expected then - or no, you can choose our preparations for the subsequent meeting."


Upon her use of his name, there was a little discussion. "I am pleased of that, for till now the memory of use of it has been largely when angry. My sister possessed some temper." he confessed that in recent years he’d most heard it spoken (by a female) upon a rage.


Thus it pleased him when she settled that if miffed at him she'd label him Chichester, his more intimate form of address reserved for tender feelings.


It would take some adjusting. "No doubt the first of many adjustments we each shall discover." he tipped his head of this. But the Batchelor life had staled for him, he felt ready to let go those old ways, and embrace with good humor the responsibility that came with his title.


There seemed to be a natural conclusion now arrived, what with much said and plans made.


"I feel reluctant to leave." expressed he, taking half a step back in prepare for a bow, "yet if you would grace me a further smile to carry upon my minds vision, I shall be satisfied knowing that time shall swiftly speed us together anon."


George was natrually quite formal with females, and she was no exception, moreso possibly, in evidence of his esteem. But right now he thought to take the less common kiss to hand in farewell also, if she allowed it. He thought that she might.

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All to soon their time was up.


She looked up at him her head nodding in agreement as he said that all these adjustments would fall into some semblance of order at the right times.


"Yet I confess that I am impatient for so many of them already and wish that the obsticals ahead had been removed.That we might meet in comfort and without any thought of reprisals but I will resolve to do as you have counseled."


"I too am reluctant to part. I feel sadness and will carry that with me until next we meet - tis but a few days from now yet Time will not be my friend I think. Of course."


She smiled then her eyes holding his and at his touch a tinge of blush on her cheeks as he pressed his lips to her hand. She had been Saluted many times but that did not compare to what his did to her heart.


She then sank into a curtsey as was proper for leave-taking the picture of proper behavior.

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Was it his imagination, or did he had an influence upon her? As he pressed his lips to her hand, he smiled inwardly of the thought. Her replying curtsy was neatly done: exquisite training. His smile warm upon her as she made her departure, and he watching after...


She was very different to Mina, who had evoked his protective feelings, who was a scruffy little thing that would have needed a lot of work, and likely to embarrass him for her lack of knowledge of the social niceties. (But he'd seen potential in her never the less)


And very different to Davina, who was such an independent woman that she resisted him at every turn. Graceful and composed yes, with a keen mind and enduring disposition --but oh the disagreements and misunderstandings!


Frances was a very different girl again. Gently ambitious, yet she listened and considered his thoughts - though she did not accept his words with carte blanche (revealing her need to use her own intellect too), she was gentle in discussing. She seemed a woman that he might work Together with. That thought was very pleasing to the Earl.


And imagine if he might link Chichester with Cavendish blood, that would surely be a positive thing for his future children. Children. Perhaps he would come to have an heir? That thought too was warm to him. Imagine to be a Father.


He indulged in a moments imagining, before returning his attention to his task of the afternoon, and headed on out the hall.

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