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Into The Lion's Den Goes A Lamb, Wed 29th Afternoon- Xmas 1677

Davina Wellsley

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Arundel House, The Strand


Baintree had insisted that she make use of his coach with its decorated and gilded crest for to arrive at the residence of the Duke of Norfolk by any other means would not do.


She had showed him the note from the Duchess and hoped that he would have offered her information as to just why it had come and to her alone. She had even asked outright if he had spoken with the Duke himself about her but there too he was not forthcoming. He had merely smiled and said that he knew she was well able to handle herself and they were all Family so hardly strangers.


Now, as she sat still and upright in the coach, her heart seemed to skip a beat or two in nervous anticipation for the had rounded the turn and with a jolt they arrived. Assisted down by a servant she took a moment to take in her surroundings. From not far off the sounds of The Strand itself were heard with the rise and fall of voices and the mingling of smells from the many vendors.


But here in this place it was all quiet and calm. She did not linger as a gust of wind caught her skirts and a flash of white stockinged ankles was provided before she caught them up and began to climb the steps where the doors were already opened and her cloak was removed and she was silenty escorted to where she would be received.


She knew the House naturally as well as those servants who she glimpsed and soon another set of doors were opened and she entered waiting as they closed behind her before she walked forward her blue eyes searching and finding the Lady who waited.


"Your Grace."


Her curtsey was faultless and the pool of the emerald green silk of the gown she wore was the perfect foil for her dark hair and creamy skin. She wore her three diamond hair pins in the back nestled amongst the curls and her jewelry she had kept clean - pearls about her throat and in her ears. The sapphire ring she always worn the only adornment on her hands.


She had become expert at holding her reverence and the Duchess would find no wobble until she was given leave to rise.

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"Davina," the Duchess greeted warmly as the Queen's maid entered. Jane was wearing a voluminous velvet gown of sapphire blue. A tiny toy poodle was asleep in her lap and a middle-aged maid stood behind at the ready. Knitting needles were moving as Davina entered, but stopped as the younger lady approached. It appeared that she was working on a wool scarf, mostly as a distraction. A hearty fire burned in the fireplace. The furnishings were grand, but then Norfolk was lacking for little.


"Come and sit beside me," she beckoned, signaling to the comfortable sofa beside her. Jane watched carefully as her Howard cousin moved to become comfortable. Refreshment of hot tea, lemonade, or mulled wine was offered. The doors were shut behind the departing servants, though the maid remained.


"Tell me, how is your season progressing?" It was a typical greeting. "I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to see you at the Anglican church on Sunday. Was that merely at the request of your mistress, or otherwise?" It was a nosey question to ask but Jane was not known to be especially tactful.

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Rising from her reverance Davina did as told crosing to take the offered cushion glad that she had opted for silk over velvet even with the cold weather for here inside it was almost too warm.


Her eyes took note of the hand work and she smiled as she sat adjusting her skirts.


"You are ambitious Your Grace and I do admire the color you have chosen. I am quite content for now thank you" Said by way of refreshment. "Well enough. I go where My Lady goes Madam and so no surprise need be taken by it. What can you mean?"


She fielded the question back to the Duchess.


She was by now well able to deal with this type of bantering and it held no real purpose except to lead into the true reason or reason why she had been summoned. Her intution was telling her it had to do with Marriage - Hers.

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Smiling at the flattery over her attire, the Duchess beamed. "I thought the color right for the cold and ice of the season," she remarked proudly. Her knitting was put aside as she was ready to proceed to the topic at hand. "You look nice Davina."


"Of course," she replied to the explanation of Davina's presence at church. She had hoped that the Howard cousin would see the wisdom of following her husband's lead in converting to Anglican. "We were happy to sponsor a candle lighting not just because it favored the Queen, but because you asked us Davina. Family bonds are strong and should be heeded."


"Speaking of family," she began with thinly-disguised interest, "did your brother speak to you about the Duke's wishes?" she used as a transition. "Our eldest, George, is home to spend the holidays with us. I do not believe you have met him. He takes after his father," she gushed. "I should like the two of you meet. Would you like that?" A refusal would be impossible. The only question was the amount of enthusiasm Davina could muster for it.

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'And I am sure Her Majesty was glad of it, just as I am Your Grace."


No addition on her part relating to the Bonds of Family and how they must be heeded.


"Baintree speaks to me of many things Madam and so I can be forgiven if not all are remembered. As to the wishes of the Duke and your son I cannot say."


"No doubt we shall meet here at Court at some function or another tis bound to happen or had you something else in mind?"


She cast the Duchess a questioning look directly as they were seated close enough.


"Will Norfolk give a party then before the New Year? If so then I am bound to meet him but I shall have to check with Lady Mountjoy to see if I am free ...."


She had deliberately taken this path of not understanding the Duchess and her comments and there was some pleasure it it as well for she was not about to allow herself to be driven by anyone into accepting how 'others' were seeking to plan out her Future.


The fact did remain however that the one Player that she could not gainsay was the Queen but the Duchess of Norfolk was not her equal or match so Davina was buying Time simple enough as the old year had not closed and the new not yet opened.


There was a long distance yet to reach this time in the New Year and she intended to continue with her lover and keep up the apperances of doing as she had been Commanded.


She settled her hands in her lap as she waited for the reply sure that the true reasons would emerge and once they did she woud know how to further respond.

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Was the girl playing dumb? The Duchess was unsure.


"Perfect," she announced, pretending that Davina was eager to meet George. "I have taken the liberty of inviting George to join us for tea momentarily but I thought that we girls might have a talk first." Davina was now in the web and silken threads would tighten.


Jane turned to the maid and instructed "tea in five minutes if you please." The maid nodded and exited so the two ladies might have their privacy.


"Davina you know that it is high time that you marry. My husband the Duke has taken an interest in you and your brother. Richard, well, he seems to be daunted at court, unsure of which path to tread when he should be advancing your family and ours here at court. The Duke has offered to take him under wing and to help you both. Norfolk has great sway and wealth. You have done well for yourself, but your brother less so. Even your position is in jeopardy dear." Did she know about the Queen's demand?


"Will Baintree find someone suitable for you? Will the Queen? Is it true she is attempting to foist some random German upon you? How sad. You deserve better Davina, but you should move quickly for matches are in the works," she added cryptically.


"If we can convince George to take you as his wife, you would be the daughter-in-law of the Duke of Norfolk, and his eldest son by me. His other sons are estranged, so George is now the apple of his eye. No door would be closed to you as the daughter of the top non-royal duke in the realm. Your success would be assured, as would be the success of your brother. Certainly you would want that would you not? You have a duty to Richard. In turn, we prefer to bestow our favor on a family member such as yourself, rather than use it on some ambitious lady from without. George shall have a fine house and estate. The Duke shall entrust family matters to him. You would be at his side to help grow the influence of our family at court and be part of the inner Howard family. It is a grand opportunity Davina and one that you are clever enough to see could assure your future and that of your brother."


The sale pitch ended, Jane having found herself leaning forward. Leaning back she adopted a more resrved attitude. "Do you have questions?"

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With out any interuptions Davina let her speak, her eyes downcast, absenty playing with the ring on her finger. The pictue of calm on the outside yet she could feel her temper heating and so would try to temper it.


The Duchess at last finished and then sat back tossing out her last line.


"I am ever fascinated that there is so much interest in my marriage prospects - my brother, the Queen, You,Your Grace. I wonder who shall next enter into the race?"


She lifted her eyes to meet the other woman's and the were a shade darker than ususal a sure indication that she was angry but she kept her tone even as she continued


"Since you have seen spoke so plainly then I shall in return and answer you. I shall be happy to meet Cousin George as I have said. Baintree rides not on my prospects but tis I on his - for his wife will bring connections that will enhance the Family. You seem to find Baintree lacking in some manner or why speak of him thusly? He knows the Direction he will go."


"As to my own position - as you see I am still established and I assure you the Queen knows Everything that needs to be known. As to this German well my Mistress has a Duty to find good husbands for her ladies yet will not force. I am full aware of it Madam."


"You needs must convience your son to marry me? An unusual choice of words indeed for such a topic. What manner of Man must thus be prodded into a wedded state by his own Family? I do not share your conclusions. Norfolk will never disinherit his son - yes even dispite the tension that is between them. Henry is his Heir and will remain so."


"Let us imagine for a moment that I took this offer up. And Norfolk returns to Henry's side and names him to inherit. What then of me? What then of my children, my Husband? This Favor that you bestowed then is worthless for All will flock to Henry not to George. And it will be Henry's Duchess that Rules and rises the Family Fortunes. And then what - We must hope and pray that Henry looks with kindess on his half-brother and wife and children? Or does George look then to you, his Mother to provide? The Dowager Duchess of Norfolk."


"I am sorry Your Grace to disappoint. I mean no disrespect. But I will not marry your son."


She was a changed woman from just a few months ago. Now she was Brave enough to sit and calmly refuse the Duchess of Norfolk's nicely laid out plans. That it might, no, would cause some explosion she anticipated. But she would not be bullied by the woman opposite - who herself had been a Mistress before a Wife.

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Davina began by wondering aloud why so many people were interested in her getting married. The Duchess was about to reply that the girl should be grateful for such attention, but she held her tongue to allow the younger lady the opportunity to be more gracious.


Baintree's sister then began to humor the match while dismissing it at the same time. She weighed heavily the fact that Norfolk would not disinherit his two sons by his first marriage. That was likely true, but it did not matter in Jane's analysis. It just meant that George would be the equivalent of a third son of the Duke of Norfolk, more than a good match for a cadet branch of the Howard line, and a Catholic sister of a Viscount without any sway or notoriety at court. She was set to interrupt the girl, but did not, wanting to afford her the opportunity to finish her analysis, and to see if she had questions.


All efforts at diplomacy vanished when Davina uttered the fact that she would not marry George. Had she have stopped short of that declaration, things would have been fine.


She had not offered to meet the man, or to even humor the Duke and Duchess. The reason was obvious to the Duchess. She thinks she is too good for my son, and for me. For the last few years Jane Bickerton had been battling prejudice and prudes that turned up their nose at her and her children, like they were some vermin. She was a bloody duchess and the legitimate wife of the senior Duke in the realm. If the Duke of Buckingham wished to ignore her, that was one thing. But when minor nobility pretended superiority over her and her children, Jane saw red. She was perhaps overly sensitive on the subject, as one might imagine. The fact that Davina, a member of the Howard clan and someone she was trying to aid, was disrespecting her, it made the Duchess all the more emotional.


Davina would see the older woman turn red in upset. There was a long moment of silence as she fought to keep from shouting at the girl.


"Davina, you claim no disrespect with one breath while you demonstrate it with another. I thought your mother trained you better than that. When someone offers you a gift, you accept it graciously. When you are offered an opportunity, you consider it and not reject it out of hand. My George is the son of a duke. You treat him as if he were the son of a cobbler. I was attempting to do you a favor and you disrespect him in my house." She was beginning to tremble in emotion.


"I do not wish to have you meet him after all. I do not wish to do you any further favors. I wish you to leave my house. I shall speak to the Duke about this and he will be sorely disappointed with you and your brother."


She rang the silver bell next to her to summon the servant. "You will not mind if I do not show you out."

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And so it came. Perhapas a bit more forceful than she had anticipated however.


So she sought to defuse


"Madam I meant nothing disrespectful at all to either the Duke or Yourself. I am grateful indeed that there is an interest shown but even you must agree that a match between your son and me will not work."


"To convince your son to marry a woman he has no acquaintance with and most likly has only seen by sight is courting a marriage that will end with no happiness. I too needs must have a say in my Future and so the idea that so many are taking turns to instruct me on the right path plays ill with my temper as well."


"I know George must be an exceptional son, as evident by the care you take for him, and the desire to see him wed plays such an important role that naturally you will become as you are at the idea that he would be refused."


She had edged a fraction closer to the Duchess and her voice had remained level even tho she wished much to simply blurt out the explanations and take her leave!


"I would not make him a good wife I fear - I am too outspoken - even you must admit that! I do with all sincerity wish him to wed a suitable girl who will easily blend in with all your wishes and do as she is told."


The Duchess had rung that small bell and soon the servant would arrive and her exit would happen but before that she needed to at least try to calm the other down so that she might listen and be receptive to what was yet to come.


"Instead I would ask you a favor Your Grace. There is not that much difference between us in age and so tis to that aspect I ask. Baintree is in need of a Wife. Plainly stated. You know of his attachment to Eleanor Needham I am sure - then you will also see the direction I am leading."


"Will you not aid me in the finding of one that is appropriate, better suited if you will, than her? He will marry that woman I fear and so will bring Shame to my Family, why mayhap even to Norfolk's as well! I am greatly troubled by this and so the idea of my own marriage is not a thing I am desirish to rush. Might you help?"


"But if you wish me to leave than I shall naturally."


With that she rose and walked to face the Duchess and sank into a reverence.

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Davina had learned a valuable lesson about diplomacy. It is better to have an discussion and then say no rather than saying no and then hoping to have a discussion. One might wonder how she might react to a lord telling her upfront that he had no wish to marry her and then trying to cobble together some reasons thereafter.


"You believe that you would not make a good wife because my son has not yet met you and that you are headstrong?" Jane was trying to make sense of the girl's arguments. "My son will marry whomever his father tells him to marry. It is the way of things Davina. Did your mother omit that too?" She was shaking her head slowly. "Being headstrong is not a disqualification Davina. You will have to do better than that." Had not the girl time to think of a better presentation? It made the older woman lament for the quality of the younger generation, as every generation did.


'You ask me a favor? You reject outright a good match for yourself and my son, and now wish me to assist matching your brother?" she asked incredulously. "The Duke has offered to advise him in matters of court. including marriage. I trust he is more sensible than you."


The servant arrived and the drawing room door opened. "Mistress Wellsley is leaving." The servant seemed surprised by the announcement but nodded. "Right this way miss."


"Goodbye Davina," the Duchess declared as she reached for her knitting again. The poodle remained asleep on her lap.

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She had thought that the Duchess would be appeased but she had miscalculated. It was clear that she was NOT at all and so Davina was now forced to actually leave!


She rose from her reverance to look at the Duchess once more adding that


"I seem to have given you the wrong impression Your Grace. I assure you that I am well aware of how things are done in regards to Marriage. I had thought that by stating my weakness at the beginning it would, well, be a good thing."


Playing on a few words that had been said she then asked cautiously


"So you think that I should try again - in regards as to why George and I are not suited I mean and if so I shall be happy to think more upon the subject. Perhaps, if you are willing, might the two of us actually meet? Not alone of course but at some Function over these 12 days?"


"As to Baintree, yes I see now that I erred. I presumed too much upon my own thinking that it might be shared. And Norfolk is indeed better fitted than I to aid in that direction."


"I can only hope that Your Grace will allow me to come again ...."


She curtsied again but deeper and bent her head in the pose of contrituion which she held for a few moments then rose and began to back away rather than simply turn and leave. She knew she had misread the Duchess and she was trying to mend the fence. It was not a good idea at all to court troubles with this Lady.


She made her exit with the wish that she might be called back but would no doubt be disappointed. And besides what could she actually say at this moment anyway? Better to continue to apologize with word or gift until the Duchess was appeased. She needed to also find out more about this cousin and arrange for a 'chance meeting' somehow.


It would seem that she was bound to suffer yet again from another man called George.

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Jane had planned to ignore all entreaties as the girl exited. Her pride and feelings had been hurt by the senseless refusal. Yet, she could not help herself as Davina began to acknowledge her mistakes.


"Yes, you did give me the wrong impression Davina. You gave me the impression that you were a sensible girl that would appreciate an opportunity. What I learned today was that I had misjudged you." She continued to look at her knitting as she spoke, knowing that she was chastening the girl thereby.


The Duchess could not abide Davina's attempt to compound her mistake by offering more reasons for a refusal. Raising her eyes off the knitting and giving a piercing gaze to the young lady, the elder exclaimed "enough Davina. I do not want to hear another word about why you do not wish to wed my eldest. You have insulted him and you have insulted me with your dismissal. All I want to hear from you is an apology and a withdrawal." She remained silent as to whether she would be invited back again.

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Given no choice she completed her exit.


Retaining her composure until the coach door was shut behind her she kicked out againist the opposite seat the strength of the hit making her cry out as contact was made betwen wood and her toes and she sat onto the seat behind her.


"Stupid! Stupid!" She admonished whilst reaching for the damaged appendage to cradle it in her hands sure that by tonorrow a bruise would be formed uncaring of the fact that her leg was in plain view and white stocking foot now shoeless where it rested on the other knee.


"Why could she not undestand my points? I am indeed NOT the wife of a third son of any Peer let alone of Norfolk's! How can she misconstru my words as if I insulted? Why I was very respectful despite her words about Baintree ... And then to refuse my request outright ... She is a most uncaring woman! ....."


Her words were all jumbled as she vented her held in temper. The fact that she would have to explain to her brother had not yet occured to her. That he would be displeased was mild in words more like angry for she was, as he would see it, deliberately tharwting HIS plans for her Future and he would not be pleased at all.


She did understand that she must try to appease the Duchess again and as the New Year was approaching then what better time to send gifts? Now she had to turn her mind to what might best suit and how she might go about its delivery .....

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The sound of the door closing was satisfying to the Duchess. It was followed minutes later by the appearance of a young man.


"Mother? What happened?"


She set her knitting aside as well as her poodle. Taking to her feet she held out her arms to her son. "I sent her away George. She was not worthy of you. There are many other candidates to choose from. I will continue to interview them for you. Do not fret my dear one."



~ finis

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