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Let Us All Make Merry, Very Very Merry!- Xmas 1677

Caroline Despanay

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Wednesday Evening

#43 Piccadilly Street


The town house was commissioned many years ago - and boasts a sweeping crushed drive way to expedite the arrival of carriages with guests. And what parties have been had in this house, it's libertine reputation remains to this day.


Ivy has grown up the walls of the tall building, and a glorious display of flowers bring brightness to its sober lines. Within its grounds are intermittently placed sculptures of frolicsome scenes of nymphs at play.


The wind of the day had died down to a less chilling breeze by the time the sun set and Lady Kendishall's party was to commence. It seemed every window had a candle and also within the house a vertible forest of candles lit up the rooms and halls for this festive occasion. Even a few of the stone nymphs outside in the yard had been enlisted to hold lanterns so no one could miss where the party was taking place. Caroline's bodyguard, an Irish veteran of the continental wars, was doing duty on this night as the doorman after a quick and stern lesson given by the young lady on how it was to be done. It helped boost the fellow's enthusiasm for the unfamiliar job when she assured him she would pay him extra for it.


Besides the lights, the next thing any of the arriving guests would note was the wafting smells of roasting meats. Caroline had gone all out to buy a wide variety of beef, lamb, and various sorts of fowl. Plus to ensure all this was properly prepared she had hired a oft sought after French chef who had not come cheaply but whose reputation was well known amongst the London aristocracy. There were soups and root vegetables also. The banquet would be then be topped off with pastries and pies.


Now of course that would need to washed down with copious amounts of alcohol and Caroline did not stint on that requirement either. Brandy, whiskey, cognac, and a wide variety of wines awaited the guests' palates. Included were five bottles of Lord Kingston's generous gift of his blood orange brandy. Actually Francis had sent six but Caroline had opened one for a glass of it and was keeping the rest of the bottle for herself.


Speaking of the party's hostess, Caroline was flitting about the residence, double and triple checking every detail, dressed in a rather extravagant low cut gown, maroon in color, a pearl necklace adorning her throat, her hair done up, every tendril in place. God knows she had checked the mirror enough to ensure so.


Later there would be entertainment too, she had given due consideration to that of course, especially given the reputation of the house due to it's history of libertine parties. Needless to say she hoped to add to that reputation.


She had done everything she could. Now it was up to others. She had invited many people, soon enough she would find out who indeed decided to attend.



OOC: All guests please note that upon entry into the residence, each guest is given a single playing card to hang on to for later. If anyone asks why or what for, the only response is they will be pertinent later on that night.

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Caroline might have guessed it would be her friend Mlle Vauquelin who'd be first to arrive...


With bright eyes and large smile Nicolette nipped up the steps, "Bonsoir Monsieur!" she greeted the chap on the door, discarding her cloak into his care with a reckless, "feel free to loose it!" It was rather a tatty garment, one of her last remnants of wardrobe from back home.


The gown now revealed was rather newer, one of the ones she had to thank the Compte of St.A and Chevreuse for. (Those lovely men!) The greater colour of the dress was steel blue. Chrystaline beadwork trimmed it's edges picking out the hem amongst silver embroidery, creating the illusion of shimmering lacework. Looped navy ribbon decorated the daringly cut décolletage of bodice, the lacings of which were hidden by a stomacher of steel blue, and decorated with a spray of silver embroidery. About her neck was tied a thin navy ribbon in the place of jewellery, as was her custom.


Pausing near a convenient mirror, she checked her look before looking deeper into the house. "Caroline, I am here!" and upon seeing her friend she rushed with arms extended to greet - air kisses and effusive embrace given in her excitement for the finally arrived party!

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Caroline paced back and forth almost frantically as thus far no one had showed up yet. She was trying not to panic, what a disaster this could turn out to be though if this, her first party, was a complete flop. But then a coach came up the driveway and soon the front door was opened by her newly appointed doorman. The poor fellow did not even get a chance to hand out a playing card to this, the first guest, as the young woman plopped her cloak into his hands. Caroline recognized her instantly of course, her dear friend Nicci. In an instant they were greeting each other and embracing enthusiastically.


"Indeed you are, welcome! Welcome, my dearest friend," Caroline gushed then took a second look at her, well rather Nicci's dress.


"My but you look amazing. I love that! Latest French fashion?" she ventured.

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Nicolette was possibly as excited of the party as the hostess was herself. "Am I the first to arrive? I hope I am the first to arrive!" she did not want to miss a minute of it, and cheerily gushed though her greeting, before turning with a wonder at the decorations all about.


It was only then that she noticed the doorman looking a little. Well. "Oh, did I miss something?" she apologised, cheeks pinking then.


"Oh this old thing." she giggled, and then revealed, "Yes it is from... Mama, I received two new dresses from her at the beginning of the season, and Ive been saving this one for your party of course. I don’t know if it's the very latest style, but, I love the beads don’t you?" Raised with barely a few denier* to rub together, talking of new finery was quite a rarity for Nicolette. (There was not a resewing edging nor lace-disguised patch on this dress anywhere!) “And yours… this is new also no?” of Caroline’s own dress she happily quizzed.


"Oh I am so excited! How many do you think will attend? Should we have a drink to take the edge off?"




* French equivalent to shillings

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"Oh indeed you are first! Ever the eager one," Caroline grinned, "Thank you for coming. I admit I am rather nervous now."


What if the party was an unpopular failure? It would nothing short of humiliating. Already Sophia had backed out for somehow Caroline was figuring that girl had not really injured her ankle but was making an excuse. Perhaps it was that boring Spanish husband of hers?


Nicci was alert enough to notice the doorman was antsy to finish some business with her lest he earn the ire of his employer. When she addressed him then, he nodded and held out a playing card for her to take.


"Errrrr...ummm, for you. Keep it for later, ummmm...milady," it was plainly obvious he was not in his element here.


"It's for a game later," Caroline quickly explained.


Of course she had to compliment the French girl on her outfit, most impressive especially given that Nicci did not always shine fashion wise. Probably a monetary reason....she lacked money! Not that Caroline thought any less of her for it. Nicci turned the compliment around.


"The beads make the garment," Caroline agreed but then shrugged about her own wardrobe, "Sadly this is not new. I just don't think you have seen me in it. But thank you for saying so."


Nicci asked how many people might possibly attend, Caroline wished she knew. In addition to written invitations she had simply talked to many folk and invited them too. She had also made it know people could bring a guest too.


"I am uncertain but if all goes well, she should have quite the crowd. I've seen to it that the kitchen has been cooking enough to serve a regiment," Caroline exclaimed using a military term, but then she was the daughter of a professional soldier.


"Yes, yes! I could definitely use a drink right now....calm the nerves. And celebrate my best friend being here too. Come on in."


It was a quick walk down the hallway to the dining room with it's fireplace against one wall. Lit candles were everywhere and candelabras on the table too. Dishes were set out, silverware and thick cloth napkins. There was a side serving table too packed with various bottles of all sorts of liquors and crystal glasses to hold the drinks.


"I have some fine French wines....ohh, and exquisite port. But have you ever had Lord Kingston's orange brandy, it is to die for. I'd suggest you try at least one glass of it before other guests finish it all off," Caroline suggested.

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"You are terribly brave." Nicolette claimed in reply, "I'd be far too timid to attempt something like this." Words meant to bolster her friends spirits, though perhaps surprisingly, was also actually true. Nicolette would never dream of hosting a party, even if she had boldness in other things.


The doorman supplied her with a card. Her eyebrows rose, and she looked with inquiry to Caroline. "Oh, a surprise." she grinned agreeing with games of sport, and with a wink she slid it where ladies have been stowing things for centuries - down her front to nest in her cleavage. Small adjustment then made to ensure the back edge of her card was saucily peeking. "I hope it involves kisses, all the best games involve kisses don’t you think?"


And so, over chatter of dressed the girls swanned through to the next room. "Oh la la! It is fit for a royal visit! Why, I feel royal just stood here." Nicolette admired the attention to details, how everything gleamed with welcome. Though it was to the drinks table she directly moved, Caroline being of much the same priority. "Shall we start with something clear?" of drinks she suggested, "Did I ever tell you of the fellow I knew back home, who had a sequence to his drinking. Clear for the beginning of the night, yellow/amber as it progressed, and then red or darker still at the very end. He said it never failed him, and he'd never needed to look at a clock since he'd begun. Yes so lets drink something clear, and not worry of the time."


Nicolette was sure the influx of guests would start any moment now


Then Caroline brought up the topic of Francis Orange Brandy. "I certainly have sampled that." Nicolette nodded, eyes widening, yet resisting the impulse to blurt out just when and how. "It is one of those tastes that truly grows upon you. Mmm... that would fall into the end of the nights drinks if my old friends system was to be followed, and would definitely be something to look forward to.”


Following a pause, she launched, “Shall we throw caution to the wind, and take a shot of it now?"

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"Brave? You think so? I did not think about it in that way," Caroline blinked, "Not like I am leading a forlorn hope against the Spanish...or Dutch...or whomever." She still not want to think that the English might soon be at war with the French though that was the most likely course facing England's future.


Caroline smiled though, "And timid, no that is not a word I would use to describe you, dear Nicci."


Taking the playing card then the French girl put it away for safekeeping in her cleavage, drawing a bit of a giggle from Caroline, "Ahhh, clever."


"For now I am afraid the rules of the game must remain secret but later you will see," Caroline was determined to keep the game a mystery, people were intrigued by mysteries.


They both agreed it was time now to fortify themselves with a drink. Nicci even had this theory of what one should drink, sorted by color. Intriguing. Caroline heard her out. But when Nicci was done, she then pointed out Francis' wonderful orange brandy he had gifted her. Nicci was familiar with it. Somehow Caroline was not surprised by that, given it was Nicci.


"Yes, let's start with that then. Like I said, we wait too long and other guests might drink it all up and then we are out of luck. Such a shame too, the first guest and the host and we don't even end up with the pick of the drinks!"


Caroline poured two crystal tumblers up to the rims with the delightful liquor, setting the bottle aside, hiding it almost behind a few other more mundane drinks, she then picked up one of the glasses.


"I propose a toast. To us, best of friends....forever!" she held up her glass in the expectation of the usual clink.

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Caroline claimed her party was hardly brave as wars. "You might be dodging the bullets of prim and proper type though. There are rarely carefree parties, at least none that I'd heard of anyhow. Well done you, that is all I can say about it. Most people are far too busy politicking to simply have fun." she paused, grinning, and added, "we are going to have fun aren’t we!"


Giggling of the next, the French miss claimed, "But I am very shy really, you ought to know how many things I imagine and never ever do. I am only brave enough to try a half of it, or, not even a half really." she gave Caroline a friendly nudge. It was so good to be in her company, her friend was so accepting and never seemed judgemental, so that Nicolette felt free to be her most plain self with her.


Caroline approved of Nicci's hidey place for her card, which in turn promoted Nicci’s question, "Where have you put yours?" Indeed, the pretty was very intrigued by the games mystery. "...Oh, unless it's kisses with ugly people, then I shall not hope for that. Although, I'd kiss an ugly person if there was a prize for it." She chattered away.


Here at the drinks the girls debated where to start. (It was an impressive array on offer after all!) "Yes, that would be a tragedy." both agreed, though Nicolette was surprised when Caroline filled their glassed right to the very brim. Carefully taking up her own, she held it apart from herself in case of dribbles.


"To friendship forever." she beamed with the toast, and clinking glasses there was indeed a bit of a spill, not that that impeded progress to take a generous sip of the divine drink (albeit leaning forwards with effort not to spill much on her dress.)




Wanting to make a toast also, Nicolette held her drink up again, "to routing the Dutch, the Spanish and prim and proper bores!" she moved to clink her glass again.

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"Oh I certainly HOPE we have fun otherwise I will have misspent a considerable amount of money for nothing," Caroline replied.


Nicci gamely protested Caroline's lack of belief in the other girl's shyness but simply was not convincing. Caroline nudged right back, both girls in high spirits and enjoying each other's company yet again.


The French girl, after strategically hiding her playing card must to Caroline's approval, now asked her where she had placed hers. It was a fair question and easily answered with a chuckle.


"Actually I haven't taken one yet. I'm not worried though, there are fifty-two cards in the deck and I know I won't have that many guests....heaven forbid."


She'd run out of food and drink with that many.


Nicci kept trying to get any hints about this mysterious game but Caroline held firm. She was determined to make it a revelation for all when the right time came. Suspense was a good thing, she was confident of that much. Time for a drink! Once the right beverage was chosen, Francis' splendid orange brandy, and poured in crystal glasses, Caroline made a toast to her valued friend.


Nicci drank then proposed one of her own right back, declaring they would 'rout the Dutch, Spaniards, and most of all the prim and proper bores'.


"That won't even be necessary because I didn't invite any of those groups," Caroline clinked Nicci's glass nonetheless and once more enjoyed the smooth heat of the liquor going down.

Dramatically smacking her lips, she now had a question for her friend.


"So tell me, Nicci, how are your latest romantic campaigns going? Progress being made or meeting stiff resistance?"

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Charles passed the carriage ride in pleasant, (mostly) aimless flirtation, taking advantage of the opportunity to accustom himself to Barbara's proximity. It would be quite the blow to his pride to be caught publicly calf-eyed over a woman, even one of Barbara's calibre.


Helping her out of the coach, he let out a puff of amusement at the illumination of the party venue.


"No one will be able to claim they couldn't find the place in any case," he commented drily. Looking about, he gave a mock pout. "I'll confess that I'd hoped we'd be somewhat fashionably late. Our punctuality has robbed our entrance of impact. Ah well. Too late to remount and circle back around now."


Offering Barbara his arm, he proceeded smoothly up towards the door, a galleon entering harbour under full sail. He recognised the Irishman at the door and greeted him with a friendly nod, before frowning quizzically as they were presented with a playing card each as they doffed their outerwear.


"Intrigue already," he said wryly, glancing at his card and making it vanish up his sleeve with a flamboyant gesture. (The one piece of sleight of hand he had ever managed to master.)


"Now, shall I introduce you to our hostess?"

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"Oh." Angling for clues as she was, hearing that Caroline had not selected a card yet did mean... well no it did not mean anything really. With a dramatic sigh for effect, she gave up her line of inquiry! "I shall have to dub you Mistress of Mystery at this rate."


Thought stated, she there grinned. "Indeed I am dubbing you Mistress of Mystery for the season." that was surely within her temporary powers, "Why I think I shall bestow new titles upon everyone who attends your party tonight!"


Finally having her own idea for Mistress of Misrule, Nicolette was elated.


"Excellent." Nicolette approved of the guest list being devoid of those nationalities or types, she fell in to chatter with her dearest friend. They picked up the conversation of last time quickly enough, namely men and their seduction.


"Mon dieu!" she squealed at the term used, slapping Caroline on her wrist, eyes flaring, laugher flowed. "Yes I've met considerable stiff resistance since then." she tittered, "and what of you?!"


"Oh my goodness Caroline, it's so sumptuously terrible and wonderful at the same time! Why, you'd really have thought there would be more poems written about it, though perhaps there is, and I've just not read them. Such an ugly thing, and yet it feels so, oh so nice." she was whispering needlessly, with just the pair of them at the moment in the room.



--- Her eyes widened then as she heard someone arriving, lip was bit, grin given, and she tried to remember who Caroline had dibs on.

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Barbara & Charles

For the woman’s part, she wore the cat that stole the cream's smile, fully mindful of the effect of showcased curves upon the man as they travelled. A pithy comment here, a sultry look there, all underscored by her repute for a measure of insatiable sluttiness - might suggest their end of evening occupation was preordained...


"Oh the sacrifices a proxy must make." she looked across at the rakish fellow. What had possessed John to send such a fellow in his stead! He's always been too trusting, she thought.


And then here they were. Exiting the carriage, one was compelled to pause in contemplation of such a brightly lit house. With a nod to Charles comment Barbara replied, "Who is this woman again?"


Entering the house, they were presented with cards. "Curious." with a glance at her own Barbara passed her card to Charles to mind, she for one was cautious of leaping into other peoples games.

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A small group of laughing gentlemen had braved the wind for the short ride to Caroline's. They seemed rather armed for the size of their group and for the cold having driven most from lingering on the streets in the dark of night.


Their riding cloaks hid and protected their clothes and made them near unrecognizable as they approached.


It was not until they made their appearances inside and removed their cloaks that their identities were revealed.


John Ashburnham and Ranelagh were the first of the raucous group to come in. The tall dark-wigged gentleman might have been taken for the king at first glance from height alone, but a periwig did little to hide the identity of Buckingham. Not that he was trying. The King, or rather "Rowley," wore a complimenting blond periwig which was very much a signal that he was not playing king that night; it was not any sort of disguise. Not with lighting at the very least! Most libertines well knew that signal that the king was there for fun not fanfare. The duke's cousin came next with his unmistakable golden mane and then a few more of the king's friends and gentlemen. They had ornate but also practical swords.


It would seem that guests were on the horizon. Another gentleman arrived shortly after them in a stylish justacorps of a purple-red colour much like wine, accented with pearls and gold embroidery. He was older but handsome, with a delicate brow and jawline, with cheeks of mirth and a mouth which took a smirk as its due.


It would seem it was quite the success thus far if the attendees were any measure.

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Nicci seemed quite taken by the entire lack of information on the playing cards and even decided to use her temporary position as Mistress of Misrule to give Caroline a title of her own. That brought a giggle from Caroline.


"Mistress of Mystery huh? Very well, I accept. Say, does it come with property and a stipend too?" she teased her friend.


Next Caroline moved the topic to how was Nicci faring in her romantic plans. Though laughing at Caroline's use of military terms, Nicci did have to concede she was meeting stiff resistance, though did not get more specific. Before the conversation could delve into the details more deeply, more guests had arrived!


"Ahh, splendid. Did you hear that? The front door and voices, we have reinforcements," Caroline declared, "Let us go greet them, whoever they might be."


Caroline downed the blood orange brandy in a few quick gulps as she didn't want to carry the glass around, set it down, and headed for the entryway.


It was Charles and with a woman at his side. Nothing surprising about that and besides she had told him he could bring a guest. With a glance toward Nicci, she smiled then approached the pair.


"Good evening Lord Chatham, so glad you could make it on this festive night. And this is my best friend, Mistress Niccolette Vauquelin."


Next she made eye contact with the newly arrived woman, "Hello, thank you for coming, I am Lady Kendishall, welcome to my humble home."


She paused then to allow the man to introduce his companion.




ooc: I'm dividing Caroline's greetings into two separate posts if that is alright?

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The door opened and in trooped a loud and convivial group of men, a grizzled male servant greeting them upon their arrival with a few clumsy bows and nods. This was normally Caroline's bodyguard for occasions when she might find herself on the streets of London, one never knew nowadays given the rioting and crime rates. But for this one night, the Irish veteran's sole assigned task was to ensure each guest, male and female, received one simple playing card and requested to hang onto it for later. The Irishman did not recognize that amongst these well dressed (and armed be it said) gentlemen was the King himself. He had never actually seen the man.


"Seasons greetin's me lordships. Welcome! Kindly take one of these here cards and be so good as not to lose it. It be for a special game later, it tis," the ex-soldier did the best he could to explain as he diligently attempted to hand each man a card.




Approaching then to see who the latest guests might be, Caroline recognized Ashburnham first and that alerted her instantly. Well, and Buckingham too. A closer look and her heartbeat quickened. It was His Royal Majesty! This was more than she could have hoped for. Without taking her eyes off the men still shedding cloaks and acquiring playing cards, Caroline reached for Nicci's hand and practically crushed it.


"Nicci, look! Look who has graced us with his presence," she hissed.

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A certain gentleman seemed to make his way, on foot, across the London streets and toward the townhouse of Lady Kendishall.


He was dressed in an modest, yet well-made black justacorps coat; his cravat with a small bow of gold ribbon, brown breeches and a periwig made of goathair. His boots clicked with each wide, confident step.


He was not young, nor handsome; but not an ugly or old man either. Archibald knocked on the door with his gloved hand, and was greeted by a brawny manservant. He thought the fellow an Irishman, judging by the look and accent, as he was welcomed inside and given a certain playing card.


The party already began to excite him. Lord Rice made his way deeper to acquaint himself with some of the guests, as well as to meet the gracious host.


He knew that he was virtually unknown by London's elite, having spent the last twenty years or so on trade ventures in the West Indies; so it was no wonder that he was not in any way invited to the occasion. Yet he learned of Lady Kendishall as a renowned libertine, and hoped that he would make a good first impression.

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Francis arrived along with his cousin and Rowley, a laugh on his lips and a smile on his face, happy that the king had taken his (not so covert) suggestion at fun for the evening.


He happily accepted his card, giving it a look and stashing it within his justacorps. For the moment, he was happy to simply be in the wake of the arrival of Buckingham and Rowley. Francis could not see passed the huge form of Rowley, but he was quite eager to see the ladies and their choices of outfits.

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Barbara and Charles


In truth,Charles was not sure if he actually intended to sleep with Cleveland. Oh, he very much wanted to, but he had the vague feeling that it might be somehow wrong. After a moment's consideration, he concluded that he would leave the matter in her hands. It would be rude not to reciprocate, after all.


Is this what it's like to have a conscience? How do people manage?

Moral quandary resolved, he smiled and made Barbara's card vanish up his other sleeve with another flamboyant motion. (It had been put to him in the past that such peacocking entirely defeated the point of sleight-of-hand. He disagreed. The point of it was showmanship, and reinforcing his image thereby. A reputation demanded greater and more careful cultivation than any garden.)


"Lady Kendishall," he said in answer to Barbara's question. "Young widow, French I think, and determined to make the most of her freedom. Energetic little thing. Plays the cello very well, and drinks like a Polish hussar." He caught sight of Caroline's approach. "And currently heading this way post haste."


He beamed at their hostess as she made the introductions.


"I would not miss it while I retain the power of movement," he assured Caroline, before giving Nicolette a friendly nod. "Mademoiselle Vauquelin and I are acquainted. She prescribed me a most pleasant tea for my head and has proven a most diverting conversational partner."


As a purely technical matter, Charles was certain he should have first introduced Caroline and Nicolette to Barbara and only then her to them. But Caroline had preempted that, and this was a rather informal event anyway.


"Your grace, Lady Kendishall and Mademoiselle Vauquelin. Ladies, Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, who has done me the inestimable honour of condescending to accompanying me tonight."


Further conversation was curtailed by the arrival of more guests. Charles twisted to observe as Caroline dashed off to greet them and gave a wry laugh as he recognised the King. He did not truly expect things to be awkward (John was doing rather well, and he had been caught doing rather more than escorting Babs to a party) but the coincidence was worth a chuckle.


"Shall we go say hello?"

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As people begun to pour in through the door, Nicolette begun to realise that these people were her favourite sort. What had she been doing all these years fussing about prissily!


Following her hostess’ suit, she upended her glass and followed after her to see to the arrivals. First here was Lord Chatham. Her lips tightened in a pleased grin, he was such fun to flirt with... in fact... her fingers dipped into her pocket to find a token. "Enchantee..." she dipped her curtsy with extension of hand to the gentleman, those dainty fingers depositing a memory in form of a coin to his own.


"And Your Grace." she curtsied once more, she needed no introduction to recognise Barbara Cleveland (who'd been at Versailles enough that Nicci recognised her.)


Plainly enough Lord Chatham was doing well already. "The darker your self effacement, the higher your heart does celebrate!" she laughed in understanding, "But you need halt already, before you are placed in Hades, and your guest in Heavens! Though your Grace." she addressed Barbara cheerfully then, "That might be the safest distance from such a loveable scallywag!" followed by laughter.


Yet already their Hostess was rushed off to attend to the next gaggle of guests.


Nicolette understood just why too, having returned Carolines squeeze of hand, restraining a squeal of delight of the next guests! Ranelagh! Oh, and the King and Buckingham, and others too. And one and all looking absolutely gorgeous amist their male jocose and height. Tonight was going to be a wonderful night. Lifting her fingers she wiggled a little wave towards His Majesty, biting her lower lip, without a doubt their games would continue in due time.


"Yes lets..." Nicolette did not move forward immediately though, opting to separate a little from Barbara (it was strategically prudent she believed), she allowed Charles and the Duchess to move forwards - while she swanned up to a chap that had the misfortune of arriving second to that most difficult act to follow, aka a right royal entrance.


Nicci greets Rice, and beckons Kingston


"Welcome to Lady Kendishalls." Mlle Vauquelin's accent plainly revealed she was french, even her stylish gown of steel blue with chrystline beadwork trim announced a Parisinne connection, "I am Nicolette Vauquelin, cousin to Lord Basildon. I do not recognise you sir, you might be recent to London perhaps?" it was once she was to the side of the group that included the King, that she saw Francis was entering on their tail too. "Lord Kingston! Do come, I have found us a new friend!"


Nicolette was already into the spirit of the night, as might be evident by the playing card saucily peeking out the top of her cleavage.

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Barbara and Charles


Chatham’s description of the parties Hostess painted a colourful picture, one that hardly matched with the wide eyed doe that greeted them. Barbara gave a chuckle and replied "I am pleased to meet you." her eyes slid back to Charles. Energetic he had said.


While the next pretty seemed to have some sort of medicinal connection, which was odd. Though Nicolette recognised Barbara, the great woman held no recognition of Nicci. Conversationalist, he said, so this one he'd not bedded yet. Perhaps Chatam’s introduction had inspired the girl, who then lifted a sally into the air to provoke laughter. Barbara laughed of it.


"If we must." the Duchess was chuckling now as they moved after Caroline to greet one and all. Most were rather well known to Barbara, which could be a good and a bad thing.

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Ah so Charles had netted himself a Duchess had he? Well, Caroline was quite sure how he had done it, knowing that rascal. The woman was rather impressive looking then add to it, the rank.


Caroline curtseyed to her social superior, "Your Grace, I am honored that you chose to come then, Lord Chatham seems to have chosen wisely also."


Charles and Nicci knew each other already, why was she not surprised. While they chattered away, Caroline studied the next batch of guests. Mon dieu! It was the King, though obviously trying not to be taken for the King on this evening. Most of those in court knew how the King on occasion preferred to simply blend in and she could hardly blame him. He was of course surrounded by his cronies such as Buckingham, Ashburnham, and others she only somewhat recognized by face as opposed to name and/or title.


Though Caroline was not shy by nature, at that moment she did hesitate to directly approach as she was quite uncertain just how to address him? Still she had to do something......there was someone else just then who also arrived and this one....who was he?

ooc: She is referring to Archibald.


Nicci had already moved in to greet this stranger. She too seemed to have decided not to directly approach the royal party....so they were both such cowards. Well, Caroline figured she would let the King and his friends finish removing their coats and capes for a moment and join Nicci in checking out the newcomer, overhearing Nicci's welcoming.


"Hello, she means me," Caroline beamed as she studied him. No, she did not think she had ever seen this fellow before. Well, unless she had been drunk at the time and just didn't remember, that wouldn't be impossible.


"Indeed, I agree with Mistress Vauquelin, I do not recognize you. Could it be you are turning up here without an invitation?" she asked but as she did so the smile did not fade. She hardly looked upset about it, if it was true.


And there was Francis! Caroline waved, "Ahhh, Lord Kingston! Now the party can really begin."


There were so many people arriving now all at once, it was hard to concentrate on anyone.

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He smiled at the first lady to address him; a charming frenchwoman who introduced herself as Nicolette. "Ah, my pleasure, madame Vauquelin. It is not my first time in London, but I have been away for more than ten years."


He was intrigued at her familial connection to Basildon. However, the hostess herself seemed to come forth and he mentally braced himself for another round of well spoken courtesies.


"Lady Kendishall, pleased to make your acquaintance." He inclined his head respectfully toward her. They both caught on that he was virtually unknown and uninvited, to which he gave a sheepish, though unrepentant smile. "Ladies, you are correct. I am Lord Archibald Rice, Viscount Ware. I hope you can forgive me for this unwarranted appearance."

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So he had not set foot in London in a decade, no wonder she did not know him, Caroline realized as the man answered Nicci. The party hostess lost no time then in calling him on her strong suspicion, he did not have an invitation to the party as he seemed to have come alone and was a total stranger in addition. The man did not even try to defend his position, no doubt knowing it was a futile one but smiled and admitted it. However, in his introduction he at least revealed himself to be a noble, that was welcome news.


Now Caroline was not cruel to the ordinary folk but that did not mean she wanted her ruinously expensive party to be overrun with the common herd looking for free food and drink. One at least had to have proper breeding. Unless he was a liar, he did. It only took her an instant to make up her mind about the party crashing.


"Viscount Ware, I will forgive you cheekiness on one condition. That you enjoy yourself this evening and in return prove to be entertaining company for the rest of us," she declared.


She glanced at her friend, "Is that not right, Nicci?"


One thing was for certain, she was determined she was not going to keep using all these fancy titles as the party wore on. They all had shorter Christian names.

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OOC: I previously misread Caroline was greeting Rowley&Co., so Nicci as her friends assistant attended the stray, shall remedy with simperance the neglected royal troupe now! lol




Yet as Nicolette realised that Caroline was welcoming Lord Rice, Nicolette laughed musically, "Well met, we shall speak again later yes?" smiling winsomely to the older gentleman, who was now safely in her dearests friends hands.


Nicolette would not have thought that Caroline was being shy of greeting the royal guests herself, but perhaps a tad overwhelmed by the quantity of them. So with a replying squeeze of Caroline’s hand, and a knowing look, she broke apart and swept into the merry fray.


"Well look who the wind blew in!" Smiling brightly towards Rowley, her attention slid with an incline of head towards her patron Buckingham - with a brief hope for eye contact with her Favourite Ranelagh as she moved in to the thick of the men’s midst.


Wall to wall wealthy men - Nicci was in heaven.


"Have you each your cards? As Lady of Misrule, I have decided tonight I am to bestow titles upon everybody. I'd already dubbed our hostess Mistress of Mystery, try as I might she would not give me any clue to what card game we shall play."

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Francis heard his name called and peeked his head around the King's shoulder and between Ranelagh to get a good look. He waved to Caroline and Nicci who were soon talking to the gentleman who had come in behind them yet managed to get into the room before the royal party had finished disrobing. Having come from horseback, there was more to take off perhaps.


He was going to move toward Nicci, who had beckoned him, but then it seemed she would come to him and so he stayed in his spot, now without his outer garments and hat.


"Good evening, mademoiselle, do you know our friend Rowley and all our company?" Francis asked, indicating the King with a jut of his eyes. "Do you don't know what our dear hostess has planned with these cards?" He smiled, fairly sure that nobody was going to tell him even if they knew. Surprises, in this sense at least, were more fun. "You have found a perfect place to stow yours."

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Rowley saw far more gentlemen than ladies! Hopefully that would change as more people arrived. Once divest of the outer garments, Rowley let someone else do the honors for once. Relinquishing some control and care for a few hours was refreshing. Buckingham was happy enough to do it. Instead of being the first to reply, he appreciated the mademoiselle's neckline and it accoutrements without much surreption.


"And what shall you dub us, my Lady of Misrule?" Buckingham asked. "Ranelagh has been known as MacStuffyArse before." He tried to hold in his laughing, but his face and chest shook. Ranelagh was not stuffy, so what that might mean could be unclear, but if one knew Ranelagh took no favor to women over men (or men over women), it might be more obvious.


Ranelagh laughed too, not bothered by the familiar jibe. "Surely the lady has something more favourable in mind for me." He winked and wagged his eyebrows with cheek.


(OOC - I'm not sure where Charles & Barbara are, since they *were* following Caroline, but it seemed they thought Caroline was heading toward the king and she didn't...So, I'll leave it up to Hope to put them somewhere )

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"Viscount Ware, I will forgive you cheekiness on one condition. That you enjoy yourself this evening and in return prove to be entertaining company for the rest of us," she declared.


She glanced at her friend, "Is that not right, Nicci?"


One thing was for certain, she was determined she was not going to keep using all these fancy titles as the party wore on. They all had shorter Christian names.


Archibald had a big grin at that point. "I agree to such terms. Seems the party kicked off already. I'm very interested in what kind of game we will play with the cards we were given."


The older fellow seemed confident on his feet; he rarely shied his eyes away from those he spoke to, and each of his statements were spoken, in a way that no one would have to ask him to repeat himself.


He subtly looped the fingers on his right hand around one of his left hand's, and pulled a tad, the motion producing a faint popping sound. This was a strange quirk of the man's, it seemed.

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Charles grinned at Nicolette, eye flashing with boyish delight, as she handed him the coin. He marched it across his knuckles before stowing it away in a pocket, laughing at her comment. Nicolette's vivacity was a joy to experience.


"And the separation would trouble me more than all the torments of Tartarus," he offered lightly, only to cock his head slightly at her parting comment, mock frowning after her as she left with Caroline to greet the newcomers.


"Scallywag," he pronounced slowly, as though tasting the word. "Surely I am at least a rapscallion."


Approaching the wine-clad newcomer with Barbara


"I think we must," he affirmed, offering Barbara his arm. "If we don't, they shall claim we were hiding, and then they'll start inventing theories as to why."


And if there are any rumours of that sort, I should like there to be truth to them.


He glanced at the gathering throng to assess the best approach. Nicolette and Caroline were doing exemplary work and he would hate to encroach. Fortunately, a solution presented itself as a well-dressed older gentlemen skated in on the heels of the royal party. Seemingly good-humoured, and possessed of delicate, pretty features, of greater import to Charles was the fact that he was currently unclaimed. Smiling, Charles stepped forward to hail him.


"You're just in time for the first part of the entertainment." A negligent gesture indicated Nicolette and the gentlemen she was currently ensorcelling. "Our Lady of Misrule shall shortly have them eating from her hand, I fancy."


He nodded amiably.


"Charles Audley, Earl of Chatham, at your service, and my charming companion is Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland."

Edited by Guest
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Barbara & Charles meet the un-named man


"Or perhaps a chivalrous reprobate..." Barbara purred, amused at Charles rumination of his allotted adjective. He was a gloriously vain creature.


And so they approached the hub-bub of arrivals, Barbara with mutual approval as they converged upon a man arriving in a fashionable justacorps of purple red. "Let us hope she does not have anything catchy then." Barbara appended with musical laughter.


She did not recognise the fashionable fellow immediately, yet smiled charmingly as she was introduced, "Enchanted." with an extension of her hand.

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Viscount Ware easily agreed to her conditions which then meant he was now officially a guest at her party. In truth he would have had to have behaved most churlishly for her to have had him thrown out, the girl was hoping for a good attendance and he just added to the numbers. Though of course the mere fact that His Majesty was now present already made certain the affair was going to be considered a social success. Well, unless she messed it up.


He too was curious about the meaning behind the playing cards but he would have no more success than even Nicci is prying any information out of Caroline.


"Oh you will find out, in good time. Part of the fun is in anticipation, savoring the mystery as it were," she pointed out.


But she had more guests to welcome though Nicci was doing a great job of helping in the greetings for which Caroline was grateful. She just had to greet Francis next though and then onto figuring out what to say to the King.


"Surely you must know Lord Kingston?" she asked Archibald, "He's my good friend. Come on then."


Francis was close so it only took her a few steps to reach him. When she did, she gave him her best smile barely managing not hugging him. Maybe later when they were all more in the spirit...and had some spirits too.


"There you are, Lord Kingston, I am so glad you could make it! As usual I think I owe you yet again," she gestured with a quick toss of her head in the direction of the King and his jovial companions. It was his doing, she was confident of it. She owed Francis so much since their very first meeting when she was newly arrived in London, all alone and overwhelmed by it all.

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