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Oops! | 29/12, evening- Xmas 1677

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Central Drawing Room


The room is decorated in a rich burgundy, the chairs and settees scattered around in small groupings matching the décor. There are no windows in the room, so the light is supplied by a large chandelier, which is reflected off several mirrors strategically placed about the room. Servants circulate about the room, ready to fetch any drink that one may require, from tea to wine to brandy.


Sophia had written to Caroline sending her regrets that she would not be able to attend her party due to her twisted ankle, but even though she was still in a fair bit of pain, she didn't want to stay home either. And so she headed to the palace to see if anything interesting was going on there.


Although she hated using a cane, walking was much easier with one. To make it more fashionable, she had asked her maidservant, who was very creative, to decorate it. It was now wrapped in ribbons to match her gown, and a gold filigree brooch with a sapphire in its center surrounded by tiny diamonds was fastened near the top to keep the ribbons in place. Anna had curled the ends of the ribbons, which flowed nearly to the ground, and they swayed gently with each step Sophia took.


As she entered the Central Drawing Room, the beads that liberally sprinkled her blue, gold, and cream brocade gown glittered beneath the bright light of the chandelier. It had a golden underskirt and gold lace framed the low-cut neckline and adorned the gathers below each puff of the long sleeves. She was wearing a golden necklace with a medium sapphire teardrop pendant in the center and three small teardrop diamonds on each side. Her hair was arranged in its usual tumble of curls, part of them held up with golden and sapphire combs.


Catching sight of herself in one of the mirrors, Sophia turned toward it, stumbling slightly and dropping the embroidered bag she carried. Sheet music, a sketchbook, and a tin of charcoal spilled out upon the floor. However was she to retrieve them? She had no idea how to kneel while being supported by a cane.

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He'd heard of the party to go on that evening, and of the lady who was throwing it, one Caroline Despanay, the widowed baroness Kendishall. The late Henry Kendishall had been a few years younger than George was, yet died without an heir, a situation that was no doubt keenly felt by his own living father. A tragic circumstance, though perhaps the elder might manage a new heir somehow...


These and other questions would not be asked by our dapper earl however, for his invite had been lost in the post (or so he told himself to rest ego of not receiving an invite.) So it was that he attended the palace that evening, in his ongoing effort to be seen in all the right places.


With no particular destination in mind, George was passing down the hall outside of the Scarlet drawing room, when he saw a lady stood with scattered possessions at her feet, and a cane in her hand that constricted her to her upright position in viewing of them.


Chichester paused, dark eyebrow raising, and then it dawned on him that this was a woman he knew. Stepping inside he expressed in a jovial fashion, "They call that an art installation, scant few can truly appreciate that form. Ah, but let me see, it must be a message of a nights leisurely industry planned, yet, foiled."


Here he bowed, "Lady Toledo, a pleasure." then crouched to collect the scattering up, passing them to the young lady (whom he assumed they belonged to). "Do you need assistance to a chair?" He did not ask of her injury, how crass would that be, he for one was very experienced with a debilitated female, and know how sensitive they could be about their infirm. His sister lived with a limp. He did hope for Sophia's sake however, that it was nothing permanent.

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She couldn't just leave her supplies there. Somehow she had to figure out how to bend. With all of her focus on her current predicament, Sophia was so startled when she heard Lord Chichester's low familiar voice that she nearly stumbled again.


Carefully, holding the head of her cane so tightly that her knuckles were white, she turned toward him, smiling in spite of the pain. “You have found me out, my lord. I decided to try something new tonight.” Her voice was a bit strained, but there was a teasing note to it.


“Perhaps I have a knack for it, for you have interpreted it perfectly, although it has a deeper meaning as well. I call it “Looking For a Hero.” Her smile brightened. “And it seems like I have found one.”


His bow was elegant and charming. “Delighted as always, Lord Chichester. Please forgive me if I do not curtsy.” As he gathered up the fallen objects and handed them to her, she thought how fortuitous it was that she should meet him here. He had come to her rescue in more ways than one. Esteban had been suspicious that she would sneak out to the party he had forbidden her to attend. Instead, she was with his friend, who would hopefully mention this encounter when he saw her husband again. Esteban would know without a doubt that she had not disobeyed him.


It was difficult placing everything in the bag while leaning on a cane … there were quite a few pieces of sheet music … but she managed, albeit a bit awkwardly. She sighed gratefully when he offered to assist her to a chair. “Yes, please, my lord,” An explanation seemed to be in order. “I fell this morning and twisted my ankle. It is not as painful as it was then and I hope it will be completely healed before the banquet tomorrow evening.”

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The perfect alibi offered her arm to assist to a chair. "If you forgive my comment Lady Toledo, but it would seem that you commence your sketching project with a forbode of giving it up, for I see you have brought sheet music with you also. I am well aware of your prowess in that particular field."


He expressed his insight in a kindly fashion. "Yet I would suggest, that you shall be more successful in the former, if you throw yourself into it without a back up option -- for to commit fully to something is a secret to its eventual success."


He assisted her to sit, holding elbow, cane, paper, whatever was necessary as the lady arranged herself. "May I?' he offered to take away her sheets of music so she could focus on her drawing, before he took the chair opposite.


"I see." he wondered how a young lady had fallen. "Well I hope you are mended by the morrow. Esteban is depending upon you for the success of his party, I am sure." he paused briefly, then turned his head to offer her an angle. "I find profiles a good place to start, to understand the shapes one is dealing with." he somehow found himself giving an informal lesson.

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Placing her small hand upon his sleeve, Sophia smiled at his assessment of her plans for the evening. “I was not certain what I wanted to do tonight,” she confessed, “but I did not intend to sing. The music I brought are pieces that I had once played on the piano in the house we rented during the summer. Our new residence does not have one and I am out of practice. Yet, I hadn't quite decided whether I would prefer to play or to sketch. Now that you are here, the latter seems the better choice.”


Hobbling beside him, the petite blonde nodded. “Yes, you are right. Maybe I am trying to learn too much at once. For many years, I threw my heart and soul into my singing. Now I should do the same with my art if I truly want to excel at it. I make that commitment now and you can hold me to my promise.”


She said this for a reason. Esteban had given her permission to take lessons from Lord Chichester, and she had asked her husband to suggest that he teach her the next time the two gentlemen got together. Maybe knowing that she was fully devoted to improving her sketching and painting skills would make him more likely to take her on as a student. Maybe she would bring up that subject tonight, if things went well.


Sinking gracefully and appreciatively into the chair he led her to, Sophia set the bag on her lap and pulled out her sketchbook and charcoal. A few sheets of music fluttered out as well, and she handed them to the Earl as he requested, wondering if he read music. “Thank you. I do hope that it will be a raging success.” A soft sigh escaped her lips. “All I want is to make him proud of me. Sometimes I believe he is sorry that we were married. Everything I do seems to disappoint him.”


She smiled when he turned his head, offering her a splendid view from which to draw his portrait. Setting the embroidered bag on the floor, she arranged her sketchbook on her lap. After taking a piece of charcoal from the tin, she studied his face with an artist's eye. “Perhaps you can give me some pointers then. I have yet to capture the essence of a person through my sketching. Maybe I just don't know the secret to it.”

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"Ah. No piano."


The mention of piano took George back, his sister was accomplished at the instrument (as well as the harp), and had been aghast when she'd first arrived to Whitehall and the Music room was bereft of instruments. The following season George had brought a piano with him on the roof of his carriage, and delivered it to his sisters room as a surprise. Mirtel had meanwhile made it her mission to see the Music room filled with instruments for random courtiers to now play at whim.


It seemed such a long time ago now. He missed Mirtel, though she'd been very testing and troubling more times than not, he'd liked having her about, she was someone to care about.


"I believe that is a certain recipe for success. Wholeheartedness is always rewarded, if one is prepared to put the time and effort into anything then recognition awaits." George knew Lady Toledo well enough to know she asked to be taught every new things she was exposed to. He was of belief that it was better to learn two or three things well, than to have a surface-scratching of knowledge of many things. "Did you get to talk to Mary Beale about art lessons?" they had discussed that once, if he recalled correctly.


Placing the music sheets on a side table, George looked to the far corner of the room, allowing her to draw his profile. "I am certain that is far from the truth." he politely replied, though in fact had no knowledge of Esteban’s satisfaction (or not) with his new wife.


"To begin." he spoke of her current project, "to commence with a loosely drawn oval is recommended, dividing it mid section to determine the plain which the eyes sit. It's a beginners mistake to place the eyes too high upon the head. Hold out your pencil at arms length, and make measurements upon it." here he turned his head to check she understood what he meant. "Place the top of the pencil head at the top of the head, then position your thumb on the pencil where you see my chin ends. Yes. Now make your oval the size you have just measured. There, it's all mathematics from there." he gave her an encouraging smile, and turned his head to present profile again. "Now you can transfer further measurements, the start and finish of nose, the breadth of mouth etc..."

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Sophia wanted her own piano. She was hoping that Esteban would give her one for Christmas or Juan would buy one for her when he returned to England. If he gave her a choice between a piano and the octopus brooch at the curiosity shop, she didn't know which one she would select. Spain should be thriving now that it was under his rule. He should be able to afford them both.


“My singing lessons taught me the value of discipline and perseverance. I know that practice makes perfect and when I set my mind to something, I dedicate myself to it completely and I work diligently to improve my skills. I have had only limited success so far while trying to learn how to draw and paint on my own, but I will not give up. Everyone who has seen my work says I have talent.” She paused and sighed. “But maybe they are just telling me that and they think I am truly dreadful.”


The petite Baroness sighed and shook her head when Lord Chichester asked about Mary Beale. “I wrote to her last spring, but she did not answer. I guess she is not interested in taking on a student.” This would be the perfect time to ask him if he would teach her, but Sophia didn't want to run him off if he was still against the notion. It was better if Esteban brought it up. Yet what if he forgot? Then her chance might be lost forever.


“I do wish I could find a tutor. Everyone so far who has offered to instruct me has disappeared from court.” She smiled teasingly. “I hope they didn't flee because they found that teaching me was a pointless lesson in frustration."


Did Lord Chichester know more about her husband's feelings for her than she did? It was possible. They seemed to be very good friends. She wanted to ask him if Esteban had spoken to him about her, but she didn't want him think she was pressing him into revealing things that he had been told in confidence. “He was very angry about my performance in the opera. I do not think he has forgiven me for it yet.”


Sophia studied his face as he spoke of the proper way to draw portraits. He was certainly easy on the eyes and would be a pleasure to sketch. She was not attracted to him romantically, but she did think he was handsome. Her nose wrinkled when he pointed out one of the mistakes she usually made when trying to draw people.


Holding out her piece of charcoal the way he told her to, she understood now that she had been doing it wrong. His eyes really were at the center of his head. She did as he instructed, placing her thumb on her pencil where his chin ended and then laying it against the paper. Taking out another piece of charcoal, she marked her measurements very lightly and then proceeded to draw an oval.


He presented his profile to her again. “Where did you learn so much about art? Was that why you went to Italy, to study it?” She asked the last question in Italian, for she remembered that they had spoken in that language once before.

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"I shall tell you what then, Lady Sophia, I will critique your work with utter honesty when you are done today." George promised, as she fretted that people had said nice things just to keep her happy.


"Well she is very popular." of Mary Beal he replied, "My sister managed to meet her once I think..." he tried to remember. The trouble was that there had been so much going on back then, and Mirtel was angry at him most of the time. He'd closed off to her. And she to him. He hardly remembered any of the details she'd told him of her days, while he'd nursed his resentment at her not accepting his plans. And then, Mina had died. And George was not making much sense to anyone anymore, let alone himself, let alone paying attention to such things.


It had taken a long time for the Earl to come back to terms.


“You could put a notice in the London Gazette." he replied helpfully. He'd never considered himself a art teacher, though he had given a lesson to Lady Neuville once. She'd painted horribly, but George had politely encouraged her to practise. She had said she'd post her awful little pictures to her grandfather, perhaps the man was sentimental enough to love them.


"Or you could write Mary Beale again, if she has not time to teach herself, then perhaps she can recommend a lady tutor to you?"


"Was he?" George did not recall Esteban complaining of anything when they had been catching up the other day.


As she fell silent, he turned to look to see what was absorbing her. She was laying out charcoal on her paper like rulers. "No no, that shall never do. Too slow. A sketch is meant to hold life, you need to draw with your eyes these measurements as you take them. Do not draw just one line, but many lightly, then press in the best line darker, dont worry about the rest, that soot shall be used for smudge-shading after.


Was he stern or too blunt? Perhaps, this was all elementary, which he would move quickly past. Yet when she spoke in Italian she caught him to a surprised smile. He replied likewise in Italian then. "I have always loved art, colours, life’s visuals. And yes I did study art in Rome, went there when I was seventeen. Though at the time... well you know how relations with family can be. There were a number of factors that had me leave. But it was there that I really developed my skill."


As he spoke he turned his head for her to continue working on his profile. "As students we spend a lot of time copying the masters, and I cannot understate the value. Learning the ease of strokes. The variance of pressures applied, discovering the impact of light and shadow. Of the littlest things that perfect an image, of the beauty in honesty of translation of what is seen to the page."


He did love it, did love to talk of it, even to a girl what was struggling to work out where an eyebrow started and finished. "If you wish, I can give you one of the artists sketchbooks for you to copy from. Dont wrinkle your nose at the thought of copying." without looking he guessed her to be pouty at that thought.

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“Thank you, my lord. We Germans appreciate honest opinions, even if they hurt. I would rather be told there is no hope for me than to be falsely praised. There are other sketches in this book that you can look at as well to get a feel for my potential, assuming I have any.”


Sophia considered his suggestion. “I am afraid if I put out an ad, it will attract artists who are more interested in money than they are in helping me improve my skills. I would rather be taught by somebody I know or who has been recommended to me.”


Lord Chichester still seemed to believe she should be taught by a lady. Maybe Esteban could convince him that he was the only artist he would trust with his wife. And he would agree to instruct her as a favor to his friend. She now had no intention of bringing up the subject herself, but maybe she could impress him enough tonight that he would offer to continue teaching her.


“I suppose I can write to her again. It has almost been a year. Perhaps she will be more willing to tutor me now that I am the wife of the Spanish Ambassador. I will have to ask my lord husband first, though, to see if he approves.”


Sophia nodded. "Esteban thought my performance was too seductive. Did you attend the opera?” If he had, she would like to know what he had thought of it.


When he told her that she was measuring incorrectly and how to do it right, she immediately turned to the next page in the sketchbook and started over, accepting his guidance without comment, complaint, or question. Holding her charcoal out again, she marked the top and bottom of his face and did as he instructed, drawing several light lines, looking up at him often and making mental measurements based on what she saw.


His smile entranced her. Speaking to him in Italian had been a good decision and she continued in that language. Having learned it so young, she spoke it like a native, with no accent at all. “So we were both drawn to Italy for artistic purposes and we both honed our skills there. It is a country that inspires art of all kinds. I have never been to Rome, but I hope to visit it one day.” She could go to Rome with Esteban without fearing that she would be recognized or that he would find out about the scandal she had caused in Venice.


Sophia had not considered that copying famous works of art would help her learn how to paint better. It sounded logical, though. She continued to sketch as he spoke, admiring his profile as she drew it. “I've really never thought about copying before but if you will loan me a sketchbook, I would like to try. I suppose I can also practice with some of the paintings in the portrait gallery, but I can't really see those closely when I am sitting down.”


Her gaze rose from her paper to his face again. “Have you ever wished you could return to Italy? Or have you already gone back a few times?”

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Hmm, an interesting thought Lady Toldeo - namely that other nationalities prefer tempered truths." he replied on the natural conclusion to her claim that Germans are not one such. "I suppose the Dutch are another plainly stated folk, as likewise are many Scottish. Ha. Do we discover a theme here, in the northern counties being less disposed to flowery talk?" he clicked his tongue. "What other Northern countries need we consider?"


“All teachers of any skill, be it math, sailing or painting, need the money. It is a fine thing to pay an artist to teach you to paint, and thereby become a patron of the arts if not an artist in your own right." he countered.


"I might offer my services in that regard, but tongues would wag, I am unmarried." And while he had inclinations that could be considered deplorable to many, he was outwardly a very proper sort of gentleman, keenly trying to downplay a damaged reputation. The last thing he needed was to incite rumours he was seducing his friends wife (art teachers were renown for it.) "But a lady art teacher will not harm your reputation at all." though there was the possibility of lesbianism which he'd not considered.


"I did not arrive to London until after the opera. Seductive? Ah, but Esteban is not a man of the arts, he is less likely to understand the liberal nature required, in that one must commit to ones art form completely with the very soul - the great showing of heart that is necessary, and can be misconstrued by some. Would you like me to speak to him of it?"


She corrected her work, and he nodded with satisfaction. "I admit, it is a pity my lady, for you are a good pupil."


Perhaps there was some way that he could conduct lessons that would be above any possible reproach?


"I would not recommend Rome to you currently Lady Toledo." he replied, now speaking in Italian with the ease of natural born. "There is too much controversy for any with English ties, you have heard the saying that there is not smoke without a fire."


Back to talk of sketching, and his recommendation to commence with mimicry. "I shall send one this evening." rather than fetch one from Dulwich, he'd give her one of his own old ones, "you can learn from the arch of strokes, and such things as that. Might I point out to you that most of the great masters do not work alone but in studios, where they have sub painters forming all the ground work, for the master to make his completing strokes upon. Great art is not a solitary affair, great artists learn from others, and from the world around them. Keep your eyes open my lady, watch the lights passage through a day. For instance stop and stare at the magic of twilight upon this earth, let the goldn tones and dark contrasts impress upon you their wonder - perchance you shall one day capture that same marvel upon the canvas."


"Return to Italy?" a puff of amused breath escaped. "Why I have just 'returned' from 'returning to Italy'. What I found was, one cannot go back. It is like trying to eat mashed pears, a favourite of babies, but when grown, it has no longer the substance we need. No, I do not miss Italy any more. This is my home." he smiled.


"You are nostalgic for your own past?" holding his head still, his eyes peeked to her as he asked his return question.

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“The French cloak the truth in flowery speech,” Sophia answered. “My guardian in Venice often reprimanded me for being rude when I didn't sugar-coat my words, and the Spaniards I met were not particularly blunt either.” She said nothing about the English, as she didn't want to offend her charming companion (who would probably tell her husband and then he would be angry with her again).


“The Dutch certainly don't mince words. I felt right at home when I visited Amsterdam.” The only Scots she knew well were Lady Alyth, Lord Dundarg, and Lord Melville, If they were naturally candid, she had never noticed. Lord Dundarg was so enchanting that he could have insulted her mother and she would have just smiled and wished he would kiss her.


“Hmmmm,” Sophia cocked her head thoughtfully. “You might be right. Maybe it is because of the cold climate, People say what they think because they would freeze if they stayed around to chat. Perhaps those from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark are even more straightforward than I am. I met the Danish Ambassador briefly at the ball. He said he would attend the banquet.” She smiled conspiratorially. “We could approach him together and test your theory.”


As to artists and payment: “Yes, that is true. I would pay a tutor well, but what if I hire one who is not very good and teaches me poor techniques? I am not adept enough to tell what is correct and what is not. Which is why I do not wish to be taught by a total stranger who just wants to swindle me out of my money.”


Sophia sighed wistfully. “I would be honored if you would teach me and I believe that my lord husband would approve.” He had already approved and promised to speak to George about it. Now that he knew she wanted him to instruct her, perhaps he would readily agree when Esteban brought the subject up. “You are his friend and he knows you will not act inappropriately around me.”


A wry smile curved her full lips. “I have discovered that tongues wag no matter what one does. Most rumors are based on lies. I rather doubt that teaching me to draw is interesting enough to gossip about, whether you are married or not. Esteban could even be present during my lessons. He could read while we paint. No one would find fault with that.”


Her eyes sparkled with hope when he offered to speak to her husband about the opera. “Would you? He does not understand that it was not me on the stage, but the goddess Diana. I had to portray her realistically. I told him that everyone knew I was just playing a part and would be able to separate me from my role, but I do not think he believed me.”


He thought she was a good pupil! Sophia smiled winsomely at his compliment. Maybe he was reconsidering his reluctance to teach her already? “Thank you, my lord,” she replied, still sketching the outlines of his elegant face.


Esteban's position was all that truly tied them to England. In Rome, they would just look like a foreign couple on vacation. In fact, unless she spoke English, it would be impossible to tell she was German. She was obviously not Spanish because of her fair coloring, but she didn't look English either. “I understand. If you think it is too dangerous, then I will not ask Esteban to take me there.” It was possible that he would suggest it himself. Did not all Catholics wish to see the Pope?


Lord Chichester promised to send her a book that evening. “I will look forward to it and I will began copying as soon as I receive it.” Sophia was refining her outline of his profile before she started to fill in the details, but she looked up sharply when he said that most artists worked in groups. “Really? Is that how they learn, by apprenticing themselves to the great masters and helping them with their own works?”


Her eyes took on a faraway look when he encouraged her to look at the world with an artist's eye. “I have been getting better at observing the details in everyday life. I would like to capture the beauty of the sunrise splashing colors across the sky and the way a raindrop glitters on the petals of a crimson rose. I notice shadows too, the way they fall across faces, sometimes making the most innocent person or place look sinister. And the sky at night is so lovely with its millions of twinkling stars.”


So he had just returned from Italy and it had not been the same place he remembered. “Yes, I do long to go back to Venice. I was so happy there. But I am happy here as well. I wonder if I would discover that it no longer holds the same appeal for me as it once did.” And it wouldn't, she knew. Sophia could no longer sing in operas or visit her old friends. She couldn't run wild and dance on the streets in her masked disguises, except during Carnival and then only with Esteban's permission. She was a married woman. Her life had changed.


“I would like to visit other parts of Italy as well. So far, I have only been to Venice. And Murano, but it is just an extension of Venice. They make the most beautiful glass there. I brought some of it to England with me. Have you ever been there?"

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"There seems to be something to the concept." George nodded with bemused bunch of lips. Unspoken in that equation was the natural belief that his own culture was the preferable blend of fact and fiction, truth spoken with eloquence that might educate rather than offend.


"Ha, but no testing of the theory is necessary." he declined her suggested assault on the Dutch Ambassador with an amicable chuckle at her very female suggestion.


Her view upon artist teachers being so low displeased the man who was patron of many. "Madam, please." he sought her to hush her defamy, "One need anticipate the best of any man in order to for that man to believe he may aspire to it. Call me a liberal, but I do not hold to blackening whole walks of society out of some sense of paranoia, but rather would look for the best in any individual. So I beg of you not to think so low of the men and woman who have devoted their lives to art." George counted himself as one such.


Perhaps she was only slandering art tutors as a group out of a misguided view that it would encourage him to be the one to teach her, and perhaps she would be surprised to find it had the opposite reaction?


"I will speak to Esteban of it." he closed the subject at that.


"Yes." Chichester replied of the learning process, "There would be no Raphaelite masterpieces, had not Raffello studied Michelangelo. Durer first sharpened the wood chisels of Wolgemut before he went on study da Vinci and Bellini. Rubens was apprenticed to Verhaecht, Van Noort, Van Veen. Poussin studied under Flemish painters that are most renown not for their own work but for that very fact. There is an entire genealogy really, of artists who studied after others. Each one mastering and then developing onto their instructors skills." he paused and gave a close lipped smile of his mini art history lesson.


Pleased with her descriptions. "May I recommend pastels to you." he considered as she spoke of her desire to capture sunrise, of rose petals. "it is a gentle and malleable medium, less prone to the unexpected than waterborne pigment, excellent for a student of colour."


"And what of Spain?" he directed her thoughts of travel towards the country of her husband.

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She had thought that he might take her up on her offer of harmless mischief, but apparently Lord Chichester was not the adventurous type. Perhaps that was one reason he and Esteban got along so well. They were both dignified and reserved, and they had high standards of honor and propriety. The handsome Earl was just infinitely more charming than her husband.


Perhaps she would still test the Danish Ambassador's straightforwardness at the banquet. Sophia was curious as to whether the assumption they had made to had any merit. Of course he would be judicious at first, but if they found a common ground, perhaps he would be frank with her. Such an experiment would also help her improve her own diplomatic skills.


It was still difficult sometimes to make herself understood in the English language. Lord Chichester thought that she was maligning artists by thinking they would only agree to teach her for the money. “Nein. That is not what I meant. I am wary of those people who would pretend they were artists in order to fool me into hiring them. They would give me lessons without knowing the first thing about art, and I would not be able to tell. Or they would take my money and run."


Sophia sighed sadly. “I was fooled in a similar way last spring. Two Italians tried to gain my trust so that I would give them money. Lord Kingston and Esteban hunted them down and killed them. I know I am young and vulnerable and do not want to be tricked again.


“I support artists myself by buying their works. I have many paintings and sculptures from Venice, Amsterdam, and Madrid that I purchased from aspiring artists. If I see one whose paintings I admire in London, I will not hesitate to ask him to teach me. I will know that he is not just a charlatan who preys upon the innocent and naive.”


She beamed when he promised to talk to Esteban about art lessons, as she already knew that her husband would agree. However, there was still a chance that he would not want to instruct her. If Esteban told her that he had declined, she would write to Mary Beale again.


Now she was outlining his hair, looking up every so often to study how it fell, as she listened to his intriguing lecture on how artists learn to master their craft. Sophia recognized the names of most of the artists he mentioned. “It is much like that with opera too. Aspiring singers learn from those who have already achieved fame, but most of the time, they have to pay them. I studied under some of the most celebrated sopranos in Venice myself. With me, they did not have to worry that I would become more popular than they were because I would never be allowed to perform in public."


As to pastels: “I have never gotten around to buying any, but I do want to try them. I have more control with charcoal than I do with a paintbrush, so they might be easier to use. And yes, color delights me, but I have had limited success with it so far.”


He turned their talk of travel to the land of Esteban's birth. “I imagine I will see all of Spain eventually.” Sophia envisioned herself accompanying Juan as he toured the country in his official capacity. His days would be full of duties and responsibilities, but his nights would belong to her. She would banish all of his worries with her love and he would always be able to find comfort in her arms. “Madrid was lovely. I did a lot of shopping there as well as some sketching. The weather there is much like Italy. It was still warm in autumn. I think we will be going back during recess. Maybe you would like to come along if you have not yet made plans.”

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Yes perhaps that was why he and Esteban were fast friends - and why George had argued so much with his sister over her rejection of him. He'd have been stoked to have Esteban as a brother in law.


"Killed them?!" George had been going to argue that no man in his right mind would pretend to be an art tutor, when Sophia said it had happened before, and that... well yes.


"Good grief, I'd not heard about this." Naturally he was dismayed. That someone would think to dupe a woman over art lessons was despicable, to say the least.


As she went on to detail how she supported artists, he was less attentive, his mind still focussed sharply upon her talk of sheisters and murder. Esteban had killed these men? That too seemed bizarre. Kingston, well he was a well travelled fellow, and it did not seem to shocking that he'd dish out his own justice rather than go to the authorities. But Esteban. For a foreigner to kill Englishmen, even thieves, he'd taken a massive risk. It shifted his impression of the man.


It fell into the role of small talk now, George explained to her where the shop with best art supplies were, and encouraged her to pick up some pastels... He could see a little of her work from where he sat, and gauged she'd be completed soon. "Now lift up your work, hold it at a new angle, to see it with fresh eyes. Compare where the light is. We shall add the highlights with your eraser through the charcoal next."


Her talk of Spain was a bit less excited, but done none the less. "In time you shall come to love the country no doubt." George replied, for that was a woman’s lot.


But she beleived they would be going back to Spain soon. "Ha! Nice of you to offer, but I shall remain in England now, settle my roots. Ahh... is Esteban retiring his position then?" He'd hoped that his friend would stay on as Ambassador to Spain for some years yet.

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“Yes. They were trying to escape, so Lord Kingston and Esteban killed them. I do not think they meant to. They were just trying to prevent them from getting away. Before they fled, they tried to kidnap me, but I did not fall into their trap. I believe they planned on taking me with them, but I do not know why. One claimed that he loved me, but I think he just said that so I would give him money. Maybe they wanted revenge and planned on selling me to a Turk.” Sophia shivered. She was still terrified of being spirited away to a Turkish harem. “It would have been ironic. Selling me would provide them with the funds I had refused to give them willingly.”


She shrugged. “Or maybe they were not that smart. It does not matter. They are gone now and can no longer hurt me.” The young Baroness was unaware that one of them might still be alive.


Sophia committed the location of the art shop Lord Chichester recommended to memory. She would definitely stop by and purchase some pastels after she visited the goldsmith to commission a brooch for herself and a gift for Lord Chatham. As they talked, she continued to work on his profile, stroking in the details of his eyes, the shape of his nose, and filling in the strands of his hair.


She obediently lifted the sketchbook and turned it diagonally, noticing not only where the light fell but a few details that she had missed. He had caught her just before she had begun to add the highlights and shadows. Now she could see everything more clearly. Sophia did hope that he would decide to tutor her. “I did not know that I could add highlights with an eraser. I thought it was just for correcting mistakes.”


Visiting Spain had been quite exciting, actually, but most of that had to do with being reunited with Juan. Her love for him had eclipsed her appreciation for his homeland. “I hope so, but I do not think I will ever love it as much as I love Venice.”


She gave him a pretty little pout when he declined her offer to accompany Esteban and herself to Spain. “Maybe my lord husband will convince you to change your mind. I think he would enjoy your company.”


Sophia shook her head vehemently when the Earl asked if Esteban was going to retire. “Nein. He has always wanted to become Spain's Ambassador to England. We both want to stay here for many more years. I assume he will want to return to Spain to meet with Don Juan and visit his family. He has not informed me of his plans yet. Maybe he will decide that we should stay here instead.”


She continued to sketch. "You will be going to your estate during recess?" It seemed that was what most of the English did when court was not being held. "Is it very far?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Irony in the very worst form." George uttered with concern. It was a dreadful tale, and he'd heard not a thing of it. "It was all hushed up I suppose, to save the smirch upon your reputation to be connected to such goings on." another pause, "You have my word not to utter a breath of it."


Life was a bit like that, he knew, deaths sometimes just happened. Good intentions meant little. Mina, his little Mina. But he did not want to revisit that strangely addictive sadness again. Mina was gone, he had to let go.


"An artist employs his tools any number of ways." the man gave a small smile at her voiced surprise of using the eraser for highlights.


She then continued her workings, and they talked of abroad. "Ha!" it was an amusing thought that Esteban would have liked his company - Esteban was not a man given to any sort of display of emotion.


"Who might know, I admit that I have no idea to what the schedule of an Ambassador is usually, though I did not think they returned to their homelands often. I am well pleased that we shall not be loosing either of you in the near future."


"Here now, let me see." he gestured for her to pass him her finished piece. Before she overworked it and the working-lines became muddied.


"I intend to remain in London, travel at this time of year is awful, and I've projects to attend to." of his own post-Christmas plans he revealed. "Chichester is not so far away however, easiest reached by sea, Chichester Harbour is not far from Portsmouth."

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“I do not think anyone knows of it besides for those involved and yourself.” Maybe she shouldn't have revealed so much to him, but now he had something on her just as she had something on him. Sophia believed him when he said he would keep her secret, smiling at him gratefully. And I will not breathe a word of what Master Cole said in the gazebo either.


“I cannot wait for you to show me how it is done.” Her eyes were bright with curiosity. “There are so many things I still do not know and I have been drawing since last spring.” To the petite Baroness, spring was a lifetime ago. Time moved slowly when one was young and impatient.


It seemed to Sophia that Lord Chichester didn't believe that Esteban would want him to accompany them to Spain. “Maybe he will invite you to join us if we go back this recess.” Her husband was not without emotions, although he kept them tightly under control. She had experienced his anger when he had blown up at her after the opera. What she wanted to see in his dark eyes was pride and perhaps a bit of affection as well.


A girl can always dream.


“I know as little about his position as you do,” she confessed. “He never speaks of his duties to me.” This wasn't unusual in a marriage, she knew. Wives were not consulted in such matters. They were expected to follow where their husbands led with no questions asked. All she could do was speculate about his plans, colored by her own hopes. Sophia didn't really care if they went to the ends of the earth as long as she was reunited with her beloved Juan.


She grinned disarmingly when the Earl admitted that he was pleased they wouldn't be leaving England permanently. “I am afraid you are stuck with us,” she replied playfully, returning her attention to her sketch and adding the finishing touches.


When he asked to see it, she hesitated a moment before handing her sketchbook over. Her heart thundered in her chest and her butterflies fluttered around in her stomach. What if her drawing was truly dreadful? What if she had no talent at all? She wanted to please this magnificent artist, not appall him with childish scribbles. Sophia had already told him there were other sketches in the book. Would he look at those as well?


It was impossible to speak while holding her breath and she exhaled softly. “I never considered the weather. It is probably too dangerous to travel to Spain as well.” The petite blonde wrinkled her nose when he told her that his estate was easier to reach by sea, but she didn't say anything about her fear of water. If they were invited to visit him, Esteban would have to go without her.


“What inspired you to start your art academy?” she asked him. “I really enjoyed the tour you gave us and trying new techniques. Your artists are lucky to have you as a patron. It is a lovely place to hone their craft. Are you planning another open day in the near future?”

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And with a silent nod the matter was settled.


Yet to art she was so eager, unsettlingly so (he found). There were different types of creative people, some liked to whip up into a frenzy, while others needed surroundings and attitude of calm. George was the latter, and he was starting to think that Sophia was the former. "Yes, very well." he uttered.


She spoke more about his accompanying them, he also noticed that she was not one to heed a polite decline when it was first given. Fortunately though he knew that Esteban would, and so he simply nodded as she again talked of him going with them to Spain (though she knew he wanted to remain in London!)


His attention was given to the sketchbook, he did not hold any expectations for it, though he hoped that she would have eyes, nose and mouth in the correct positions on the head, and to have shaded in appropriately, then rubbed back highlights in places they actually were (rather than where they would look best).


(OOC: PMing a mod for a result.)


Naturally, he then thumbed through the other pages.


She then asked about his Academy.


She was the first to have asked that question, and George have a huff of amusement of it. "There is no single answer Lady Toledo, it was a culmination of a number of things. There being no Royal Art Academy in England for one, and I hoped that one day mine might be endorsed by the King. Then I wanted a project that would outlive me, to leave a mark upon England, and politics at the time, was denied me. Arts was a natural answer. Then also, I have ever considered myself a man of the people. This, is an opportunity to humbler artists who cannot afford to extend their careers to foreign study, initially at least. Those, and any number of other reasons, had me create the Residency programme."


"And no, I do not intend any other open days, the last cost me a small fortune in advertising, the food tents, staffing, etc etc... and you and Esteban were the the only attendees. It was a shocking waste of resources. Quite aside from the personal embarrassment to myself." not long after George had chosen to leave London, it had been made plain he was courts black sheep. Discussing this again was not a pleasant memory. But he was not about to dwell upon past failures. He was giving London a second chance, and she could damn well give him one also!


"It would make sense to simply provide a tour to those who desire one."

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Sophia was always eager and excited when it came to learning new things. She had been drawing for nearly a year now, and believed she had improved a lot during that time, but she still lacked the guidance of an instructor. Lord Chichester's impromptu lesson delighted her and she couldn't hide her enthusiasm.


As to traveling with them to Spain, she thought that he had declined because she had asked him. If Esteban invited him, he might change his mind. It was difficult to believe that anyone would choose to stay home when they had the opportunity to visit a new country. Perhaps that was because she didn't have a home of her own. She had first visited a foreign land when she was eleven years old, and she had been many other places since then. The desire to stay in one place for a long period of time was as foreign to her as she was to England.


While he looked over her sketches, Sophia folded her hands in her lap so that he wouldn't see how they trembled. Letting someone else look at her art was like relinquishing a piece of her soul, laid bare to scrutiny and criticism. Oh, how he hoped he didn't laugh at her and tell her to concentrate on her singing and leave drawing to those who had talent.


She knew she wasn't perfect, but everyone had to start somewhere.


The petite Baroness listened intently as he described his motivations for starting his Academy. Lord Chichester was a compassionate man and he had found a need and filled it. Sophia wondered why it had not been endorsed by the King. She hoped that His Majesty would wish to speak to her at some point about the opera. If he did, she would mention the Academy then. She would also tell Esteban that his friend hoped for royal approval. An Ambassador was better placed to get results.


There would be no more open days. She had not been aware that she, Esteban, and Lord Melville had been the only people who had attended. It was tempting to tease him by asking if they weren't worth the expense, but she was afraid that such a jest might anger him. He seemed unhappy about the poor turnout.


“Will you give me another tour when it is warm again? It is very generous of you to provide support to struggling artists, my lord. I'm sure they appreciate the opportunities you have given them, and some of them will go on to achieve greatness because of you.


“I would like to do something similar, but with musicians. When I am out shopping, I often tip street performers when I like what I hear. It would be wonderful to open a music academy one day. Do you think there is a need for one?”

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With George's trained and discerning tastes, he would find the works were hardly masterpieces but, in truth, showed promise in need of more refinement. That was enough of a spark to hold some interest.


(OOC - George can determine the other particulars for his reaction )

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George was mildly surprised - these were not the drawings of a toddler, but showed some true effort. It is easy to think a pretty girl will glide past purely upon her looks - and rather less expected that a pretty girl would or even could be diligent.


He made some approving noises, and turned page after page of practise works in the sketch book.


"Another tour is unnecessary." he replied simply enough. His dreams for the Institute were behind him, "But I am planning an exhibition of European works, to which you and Esteban shall be invited.


"Ah yes, I am too soft a touch." he replied as she complemented him for his efforts with the common folk, "it is abused for the most part, taken advantage of, while I am ridiculed at every turn elsewhere. That enterprise embodies the hopes and dreams of the man I used to be. Now grown wise, I see if for what it really was." His genial tone as he spoke did not mask the deep hurt that was plain in his statements. He'd started up the Academy when he'd been a naive idealist, thinking it might define his success. But had since learnt it meant nothing to anyone at court. Well. Except Sophia.


He was still looking at her sketches. -- surprising that she had managed this much from nothing, and in just a year. It made him wonder if...


"How is this Lady Toledo, I shall teach you to use oils, if you teach me to sing opera?" Could he became a singer with viable merit in a years time? The man with interest in the sciences (he'd sponsored Newton via his sister), thought to conduct an experiment. His sister Mirtel was a gifted songstress, perhaps it was even in his blood?


"Yet as far as thoughts for a music academy goes, I would advise against it Lady Toledo. Your heart will be broken by others disinterest. It is a terrible thing when the medium you love means nothing to everyone you know, when your life's passion is considered worthless. It erodes the soul to learn that the thing that is most precious to you, is refuse to the rest."


Yes, he still hurt a great deal that his Art Academy had been rejected by Whitehall, like it had never even existed. Even Samuel, the man he'd loved, had rejected it in favor of Barn Elms.


"To be perfectly frank, I do not expect my European exhibition to go any better." he admitted. Perhaps that explained why he did not intend it any time soon - had not even set a date.


"Mankind’s nature is a selfish thing, others have no interest in the arts unless it impacts themselves in some way. For instance they all want portraits to hang in their halls and make them feel important. But they have no interest in looking within their own hearts and being moved, which is surely the purpose of any art. You will have found the same thing. They loved to attend an opera to be seen attending the opera. But were they even listening to the message of your arias. Did they comprehend the heart behind it. The Sincerity. Even Esteban did not, thinking you had some sort of angenda - and yet he is your husband." George sighed of despair for the arts.

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Lord Chichester's hums of approval heartened Sophia, and some of her nervousness abated. Her heart slowed its frantic beating and her trembling began to wane. He did not think she was as dreadful as she had feared. Maybe he believed she had enough talent to benefit from his instruction? That was what she wished for, but she would not get her hopes up only to see them dashed into millions of tiny shards.


Which had apparently happened with his art academy. The petite Baroness, always attuned to the emotions in voices, heard the pain in his when she spoke of it. He had wanted court approval and he hadn't received it. She wondered what he meant by seeing his efforts for what they really were. “You are giving aspiring artists hope for the future,” she said softly, attempting to reassure him. “The skills they learn at your academy will help them succeed in their chosen craft. That, in itself, is commendable. If others cannot see that, then they are not worth your time. Forget about them and focus on the positive impact you are making on your artists' lives. You are pleasing God, who bids us in the Bible to do good deeds for our fellow man. No one's approval is worth more than His.”


She was disappointed that he would not give her another tour. Sophia had enjoyed trying out new techniques and talking with other artists. Perhaps if Esteban asked, he would agree to show her around again. The next time she spoke with her husband, she would bring the subject up. He had seemed to enjoy himself as well. Maybe he would like to come along.


Lord Chichester's offer surprised her. She would have never guessed he wanted to learn how to sing. He had a very nice voice and she thought that if he put his mind to it, he would be able to sing quite well, assuming he could carry a tune. A disarming smile turned up the corners of her lips. “It is a deal,” she replied. “I would be delighted to teach you to sing opera. Singing is like painting in a way. The more devoted you are to it, the more proficient you will become. I have helped Lord Kingston improve his voice, and gave lessons to a few other courtiers as well. Perhaps it will not be long before we will be able to sing duets together.”


He advised her against a music academy, and again, she could hear the hurt in his voice because of what he perceived as his own failure. Sophia had not lost her youthful idealism and optimism. “I do not care if others are interested in it. I do not care if it gets royal approval. I just want to help musicians achieve their full potential. I would be doing it for them and for God. If anyone ridicules me, I will tell them where to go and what to do when they get there.”


She nodded when he explained human nature and how it related to art. “This is true, and perhaps in the case of the opera, it was a good thing. Nobody associated me with the role I played.” She paused, tilting her head to the side thoughtfully. “I sang for the King that night and he was quite pleased with my performance. I never sing for my own recognition. I have no desire for fame. I sing because I enjoy it, not to impress people. But I am always happy when they appreciate it."


Sophia looked up at him. “I think your European exhibition will be successful. It seems to me that looking at paintings will appeal to more courtiers than watching artists at work. You could also add other forms of entertainment to it, like perhaps a commedia dell'arte, with masks painted by your artists. There could be music as well.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

George was fully aware of the generosity of his enterprise, knew very well that he was helping artists, spent a small fortune renovating the building in Dulwich for the purpose, there was the ongoing overheads, the allowances given, not to mention the coaching, advise and oversight he personally gave. That was not what had disappointed him of his endeavor, was not the reassurance he needed to hear - still she was kind to say it, he appreciated her encouraging spirit.


"We are not attending court to please god though are we." he pointed out. She did not understand ambition perhaps. All in all he did not want to talk of the disappointing subject, it was depressing, and he was resolved to focus on the positive. And he was doing so, admirably even (if he was bold enough to admit to himself, touch wood). And so that subject was left behind.


"Yes perhaps. It was ever my sisters 'thing', I did not wish to encroach upon it, but I certainly enjoy music." Time would tell if the Earl would actually take to it.


Hers was a different nature, as was revealed, as she announced that she did not seek glory at court with her envisioned singing school, but that heavenly rewards was enough for her. George left her comment be, he'd already advised her of his own viewpoint on that score. Which was not to say that he was not a man of many good deeds, though those mostly done within his own household. He sponsored a monthly dance in Chichester for instance. He looked after his farmers and service workers kindly, and had a natural compulsion to right the wrongs he discovered. These things done selflessly. But here at court, he desired the recognition of his peers. He craved it in the very worse way, and how his pained his soul when his best efforts went ignored. He was a man with deep-seated passions, even if he tried burry them deep.


Yet when ti came to performing, he could understand her perspective entirely. "It is the same with my painting, I paint for my own pleasure and have no need for others impressions or viewpoints upon it. Why I've a dozen closets at home full of my pieces, along with all those that litter the walls. The satisfaction of painting the piece is enough. If it brings another pleasure, then, well and good, but that is less my purpose. Hmm.. my purpose with painting it more to please myself. When I catch the light just so. Or a mood in the subjects eyes. Or a whisp of fog through streets. Those moments of creation are so utterly satisfying... ha! even if after I go on to overpaint and loose that moment of joy, it's still served me well."


He's waffled no doubt. Caught himself short now, stopped and gave her a brief smile.


"How shall we manage these lessons then, as there is scant few weeks in a year that court is attending, we shall need to figure some manner of correspondence schooling I suppose?"


"Yes, the European Exhibition shall be more successful, agree." he was going to place himself with it, get his ducks in a row first. Which begun with his enrolling a patroness, but Sophia already knew of that he believed.

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“The priests are,” she answered naively. Not that they actually attended court, they just held services in the chapels. Sophia was at court because it was fun, and her place was beside her husband. She wasn't particularly ambitious, but she was young yet. The desire to move up in the social hierarchy might come in time. At sixteen, most of her desires were purely physical and she was still learning who she was and figuring out what she wanted out of life. For now she was content to flutter from one activity to the next like a pretty little butterfly, as carefree and optimistic as a single ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.


“If your sister can sing, then you probably can too. Good voices often run in families.” Her smile faded slightly. “I was told that my lady mother had a beautiful voice. I can vaguely remember her singing to me before she ...” Her voice trailed off. “I must have gotten my talent from her. My lord father could not carry a tune in a bucket.”


Lord Chichester painted for the same reason she sang, for his own enjoyment. “So we are kindred spirits when it comes to our art. I live for those joyful moments as well … when I hit a difficult note perfectly, master a new technique, or come up with a beautiful new embellishment for an aria. I love pushing my voice to new heights and seeing how well it can fly.”


She thought that painting lessons could be given better by correspondence than singing lessons. Still, it could be done. “I suppose that is the best way when court is in recess. I can send you my paintings and you can critique them and give me pointers. I need to teach you the basics of singing in a few sessions this season and then I can send you sheet music that will help you improve your voice. If you do not know how to read music, I can teach you that too."


Sophia grinned. His mood seemed to be lifting and she hoped that she had helped cheer him up. She had been with the Queen when George had discussed art with Lady Habersham, so she was unaware of what he was planning. “I will be pleased to help in any way I can.”


Back to lessons: “Perhaps we can set up a time for our first lesson at the banquet tonight. Esteban needs to know about our agreement, but I believe that he will approve.”

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She was naive indeed, oblivious to the ambition that existed even within the Church. Still, it was expected for a young lady to be innocent of such things, no doubt her lack of worldly wisdom was a relief to her husband. (A jaded wife would have suggested that she'd not been an innocent when wed!)


"Yes my mother dies when I was just a boy too. The memories one has are all the more precious thereby. My sister never came to know her, relied solely upon my descriptions of Mother. I do not know which headache is worse - to have never known, or to have loved and lost."


"Hmm, well we shall see." He was not attracted to singing like he was to painting. Perhaps her interest in art was similar, more of a personal challenge than a soleful longing. "We might put aside a morning for a lesson before court ends, shall half that morning be painting and half be singing." he suggested to practicalities. "My schedule is clear next week. Should you prefer Monday, or Tuesday morning?" The final day of the season was Wednesday.


"But yes, you need ask Estebans permission first, I fully appreciate." he agreed as she pointed out she needed her husbands consent. “we shall speak again more at the party.”


"It has been a pleasure." he stood and returned her drawing book to her hand, ready to carry on about his planned evenings diversion down in the billiards hall. "A most enjoyable sojourn for the evening." the highly polished earl bowed. “Until tomorrow evening, I bid you good night my lady.”




OOC: seems a fair place to wrap this up

Thanks for a enjoyable thread

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Sophia had not been aware that his mother had also died when he was young. She felt sorry for his sister, who had never known her at all. Then again, her own recollections had such a dream-like quality that sometimes she didn't know if they were real or simply wishful thinking. “I was only three when my mother passed away. I just have brief flashes of memory, but I treasure them all.”


Except for the one clear image that she wished she could forget …. her mother lying motionless in the pond, her long blonde hair fanning out around her. Even now, she shuddered. No child should have to witness a parent's death. It scarred one for life. She wondered if Lord Chichester had been with his mother when she died. She hoped that he been spared that particular traumatic experience.


He seemed to think that one lesson before the end of the season would be enough. Perhaps if they had the whole morning, it would be. “Monday sounds good to me and gives me time to pick up some more painting supplies and those pastels you told me about.”


She grinned disarmingly “You do not need anything for singing but your voice. If you would like, we can meet at my house.” Sophia thought that it would look more proper for him to visit her than the other way around, but she didn't mind going to his residence if he preferred. Perhaps Esteban would decide to join them if he had no pressing matters to attend to. She suspected that he would be quite busy as the end of the season drew near.


Nodding at the necessity of asking Esteban for permission, she took the sketchbook from his hand as he stood and bowed to her. “Thank you for the drawing lesson and for keeping me company, my lord. It has indeed been a pleasant evening. I look forward to seeing you again tomorrow. Perhaps we can inform my lord husband of our plans to exchange lessons then.”


Struggling to her feet, she dropped an awkward curtsy. “Have a good night, my lord,”


Once he had gone, she placed her sketchbook back into her embroidered bag and hobbled to the music room to practice playing the piano.


~finis~ and thanks for a fun thread.

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It was not that he thought one lesson would be enough, but that they had very little free time. His Thursday and Friday were full, and then their was the weekend with gift giving and parties, which left them with three days at liberty. "Monday it is then. Well, that is if your husband is agreeable. I shall come to your house where he may remain in attendance of course." He had no desire to put her reputation at risk.


"Please, remain." she halted her as she thought to struggle to her feet to bid a farewell, a curtsy was unnecessary under circumstances. Instead, the consummate gentleman bowed over her hand, "Apprezzo i momenti trascorsi insieme, Senora Toledo..." he uttered with a smile, knowing her love of the Italian language.



* Italian - I appreciate the moments spent together.



~ fine

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