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Snow Angels | 30/12, around noon, open- Xmas 1677


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The Privy Garden at Whitehall is laid out in ordered blocks with statues in the center of each square, the classical creatures easily draw the eyes of lovers of art. The different statues depict the nine Muses (Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania) and the three Graces (Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia), each holding or surrounded by that which is most associated with her, such as a lyre or scroll. As one wanders, it is often noted that the red roses remain on one side of the garden while the white ones remain on the opposite side, thus creating a pleasant contrast throughout. About the garden are scattered several benches, but none are secluded.


“Are you sure nobody will see us?” Henrietta Butler glanced about the garden nervously. There were only a few people strolling about in pairs or groups, and none of them seemed to notice the two young ladies standing in front of one of the squares. Their chaperones were watching them while talking quietly together.


“Not once we're down there,” Elizabeth replied confidently, looking at the blanket of snow that covered the ground around the statue of Terspichore. There were no footsteps or animal tracks marring the pristine surface.




Both girls wore fur-lined cloaks over their clothing, and their hands were warmed by gloves. Fur hats sat atop their heads. And all were about to become covered with snow if they gave into their mischievous temptations.


“Come on, Nettie,” Elizabeth urged. “Let's do it.”


“We're too old for this, you know.”


“Who cares? It will be fun.”


Henrietta was still not convinced, but she stared at the square longingly, remembering the happy times they'd had as young children making angels in the snow.

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Her arrival in London had been uneventful so far, which was not surprising for it was not twenty hours since she stepped foot off of the carriage that had transported her from her nest in Canterbury. The journey to London had been tedious along the many routes which were blanketed in white and thus slowed her on the way to the heart of Britannia.


It was not a smooth journey.


The carriage often rattled violently and halted abruptly, her stomach muscles having done quite the jig in order to make sure that she was still seated within the carriage. She swore that she saw her knuckles become pearls with how hard she had gripped onto her seat. She was not accustomed to travelling by horse, either on it or being pulled by one, and she had only been in a carriage twice before. Her previous experiences had not been delightful either, one of the times she regurgitated her lunch.


Truth be told, although she did not find the experience too enjoyable, she felt bad for the creatures who were obligated to carry her and her luggage(while not a heavy load) all the way to London. Especially in the polar conditions that they were experiencing. It bothered her throughout the journey, even more so when she had finished a great novel and was left to ponder. She gave the gentleman who guided the horses extra coin when they parted ways, insisting that he give them a few treats as a reward for their endurance.


Before leaving her home, her sister wildly informed her of places that she should visit immediately when she came to the Palace. Of course, Olivia was more than enthusiastic about the library and yearning to venture into the city where she could browse tomes for as long as she could stand.


In Canterbury, she liked to stroll around the outdoors, taking in the sights and smells and feeling that unadulterated nature acted like a warm blanket, a comfort to whomever took the time to embrace it. She intended to keep to her routine of daily walks in London, even if it may not be as quiet as the grasslands and rolling hills of her home.


Coated in the season's blessing, the garden provided a wonderful sight. The Grecian stones appeared ethereal, the snow acting as an illusion, perhaps the statues were glowing and sending forth their messages for the mortals. The slight crunch of the snow beneath her shoes as she cautiously clambered towards a nearby bench acted as audible pleasure. She held her hands out at either side of her to ensure that she would not fall flat on her face into the chilly mounds, she crossed her fingers tightly and continued towards the bench where she would be safe from the possible embarrassment of losing her balance.


With a gloved hand she wiped away some snow from the seat, making a clear space in which she would place herself down and simply observe the area. She was draped in a black hoodless cloak which was tied at her neck, the cloak was not furred, but did provide sufficient warmth when paired with her woolen gloves. Olivia lowered herself down to sit, brushing the length of her cloak underneath her bottom to act as a barrier between her dress, undergarments and the cold. The wild mass atop her head was surprisingly calm(or calm for her), a rarity on most days. Her hair was still rather awkward, pins sticking out all over the place, but at least it sat flat and the unruly hairs which escaped from their holdings were not taking the form of tentacles. The one thing that she appreciated about the colder weather was that it did not cause her hair to frizz like the heat on a fine summer day.


She clasped her hands and peered around the area. parting her lips to see the condensation of her own breathe.

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“Well?” Elizabeth asked, her hands on her hips. “Are you going to do it or not?”


Henrietta glanced around the garden again, noticing a young woman sitting on a bench not far away. “She might see us. What if she tells all her friends how silly we were?'


Elizabeth followed her sister's gaze. The dark-haired girl appeared to be about her age. She didn't look familiar. Perhaps she was one of the many nobles who had come to court for Christmas. “Maybe she would like to join us. She looks lonely sitting there all by herself.”


If Olivia looked in her direction, Elizabeth would smile and wave.

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  • 1 month later...

Though they were said to be ones of mirthful merriment and profound holiness alike, these past few days -to put it in a manner an observer might have found characteristic of a certain Irish poet- had been abysmally long, woefully dreary, and (if his present musings were to be overheard) bordering on the profane.


Not for James was the pious company of family and thanksgiving for the Son of God, preferring instead an exacting solitude peppered with the occasional attempts of his last, frenzied work, errands for the Lord Steward, and the...intimate obligation he was under with a certain printing-house merchantess. And while the dark-haired poet could not remember when the foul mood had set in (or perhaps most accurately, did not wish to, with a sort of obstinacy that made fact irrelevant), he could remember that it had arrived more like a summer storm than winter gloom: slowly at first, dark clouds looming oppressively over the horizon, and then the downpour.


And then, a scant few -although long, sleepless hours and the doldrums of daily existence had made time crawl- days later, it had vanished, and December had all the warmth of a July sun, inexorably marching across the sky. He was himself again.


Perhaps a more...mundane soul would have found such an irregularity -and a general absence from the public eye- peculiar. To James, such thoughts were scarcely even possibilities, when the world seemed so suddenly full of promise.


“No less than...obeisance...obedience, no,” James' distinctly Irish brogue could be heard in the far-off distance, muttering to himself as he wandered the gardens, having left the palace and Ormonde's business only a scant few minutes before. “Obeisance. Fits the meter better...” There was no major objective to his pacing, no great plans for the day, although mention of a party had piqued his interest, only opportunity, constant opportunity...even if the particular bit of inspiration that gnawed at the young man was a particularly vehement diatribe of a poem, unsuited for most genteel ears.


“...obeisance to you, Marcella, pagan forfeit.” A crisp, dimpled smile danced upon his lips, usual pallor brightened by the rosy hue of the winter's cold, still biting despite the silver-clasped cloak shrugged about his shoulders. The recital was a routine matter, a bit of private editing that served just as well as a means of keeping the author's focus as it did actually providing structure to the poetic work, and a pleasant enough pastime that it could have continued unabated, had he not caught the distant murmurings of two young ladies near the square.


They were familiar, of course, James having spent a large part of recess not at his family's estate, but among the Duke's household, even counting himself passingly fond of Elizabeth's penchant for mischief. And while he couldn't quite make out their words, after such a dismal week, the sight of any familiar face was enough for the clockwork of his mind to turn a gear, spurring him into action, approaching from the direction opposite where the pair were glancing.


Green eyes alight, when he was close enough to speak without shouting, he called out, tone full of its usual teasing warmth, “Both of His Grace's daughters loose in the Privy Garden...” James strove to make his face a mask of feigned shock, bowing to them both and giving a nod to their chaperones. “Shall I alert the Life Guards?”

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Elizabeth's attention was diverted from the lady on the bench when Henrietta nudged her in the ribs and whispered: “Look! There's Master O'Neill!” She turned just as her father's messenger called out to him. They had spent some time together during recess and she had found him pleasant company.


She laughed at his words and his expression, holding up her hand to be kissed. “Actually, Master O'Neill, the Life Guards have already been here and they were looking for you.” Her hazel eyes glittered mischievously and she hoped he knew she was only teasing. “Of course we told them we haven't seen you. Maybe you should hide here with us in case they come searching for you again.”

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“For me?” James' face was a perfect pretension of shock, an amateur's conceit to belie the jest between himself and Elizabeth. He made his approach, grateful that the beaten path kept the snow from soiling his boots utterly – Lord Iveagh was not in a charitable mood as of late, and he had stretched the limited favor of his benefactors at court as far as even he would be willing to chance. “I must apologize,” he further intoned, bending to kiss her hand, and that of Henrietta's if it was offered. “Genteel ladies such as yourself ought never be asked to defend the lowly men of this court.”


It was a joke at their respective statuses, and one that hinted at a few bare truths besides, even if he had once been assured that a position in a high household was nearly as fortunate as familial relations. James himself was unlikely to consider such things, of course, merely being amused by the younger sister's humor...and in turn, noting Henrietta's silence. She was something more of an enigma, and one that was frustrating besides; of course, nothing got in the way of such a magnanimous, gallant mood as had overtaken their father's aide.


Not even himself, if one were to speak the Lord's honest truth.


Instead of the truth, however, James merely laughed, in his usual chipper staccato of an Irish brogue, rising from the perfunctory greetings with good cheer and a merry enough quip, “Of course, I have scarcely any idea why they would search for me. I am as innocent as a lamb, I assure you.” Which was, perhaps, not the most politic jape to make within earshot of the chaperones of his master's children, but the poet believed himself -sometimes even correctly- an expert at wagers of both coin and charm. “But I cannot,” he admitted, faux-exaggeratedly, “deny the kindness of the likes of you two. If you would shelter me, I suppose I must be obliged to accept it.”


“So brave, after all, to stand up for me.” He shot a dimpled grin at both sisters, traveling from Elizabeth to Henrietta quickly. “One might almost think us conspirators, hm, if you did so with such rapidity?”

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Elizabeth grinned when Master O'Neill kissed her hand, taking advantage of his lowered gaze to jerk her head in her sister's direction. Henrietta offered her hand as well and was surprised at the way her knuckles tingled when his lips brushed over them.


She was not certain what to think of him after their unfortunate encounter over recess. It had taken all of her courage to approach him then, but that courage had not been rewarded. She had been curious about his writing and had wanted to tell him that she had recently taken up the hobby herself, but she had gotten the impression that he would rather be left alone. Not sure what he thought of her, she did as she usually did, remaining silent while Lizzie did the talking.


“We didn't actually defend you.” Elizabeth continued their impromptu story they were inventing. “We just told the truth, that we didn't know where you were.”


She laughed when he proclaimed his innocence. “I'm sure you are.” Her eyes narrowed slightly, as if she knew that he wasn't. “I have no idea why they were looking for you, but they didn't seem too happy. So yes, stay here with us, and if we see them again, Nettie and I will distract them.”


When James grinned at Henrietta, she smiled shyly. He didn't seem so unapproachable anymore, but she could think of nothing to say. Lizzie, however, was rarely at a loss for words. “I suppose we are conspirators,” the younger girl agreed. “And if you'd like to conspire with me on something else, perhaps you can help me convince my sister to have a little fun.”


She waved her hand at the pristine snow-covered area ahead of them. “Look at that square. Doesn't it practically begged to be adorned with snow angels?” Elizabeth hoped he knew what snow angels were. Perhaps little boys never made them.

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For better or worse, James' introduction to Henrietta weeks before scarcely registered with him now, so great was the disparity between his past and present mental states. He was, above all, a man of his craft, and isolation in that bleak autumn had been not just a convenient shield from his lord father's wrath, but an impetus to drive his creation -The Rising, a work he was growing more and more confident in by the very instant- to newer, better heights. An interruption, thus, any interruption was a faux-pas that ought have been considered unforgivable...


...at least until one calmed down, examined the situation logically, and then found the whole affair somewhere between embarrassing and frustrating. Women of equal intellect, he was certain, should have at least had the sense to be approachable, like that charming Beatrice Melville he had chanced upon last season.


Of course, calm was...mediocrity, base, animal compared to the present racing of James' heart, the grandeur that seemed to accompany every notion, the urge to laugh and jape and grin at every pleasantry. He did not think of such passing irritations, because as...bizarrely inapproachable as Henrietta Butler seemed to be, that was all they were: passing.


And so he smirked at the younger sister's words, offering another bow as if in gratitude, and declaring in agreement, “Conspirators, then.” He glanced around, briefly managing a halfway responsible thought by wondering what any interlopers might have thought about their impromptu collusion, or what disapproving thoughts must have been going through the minds of the Butler girls' chaperones. “And how shall we convince your- ah.”


Elizabeth explained her plan, and James continued to smile, albeit a bit lighter. Impulse fought against his father's constant admonitions, memories as nagging as aforementioned unpleasant encounters. Abruptly, however, the poet put in, “When we get snowfall along Lough Neagh, back in the County Down, it is not unlike this.” Wet, easy to pack...more ideal for a snowball than a snow angel. And horrible, absolutely horrible, for one's clothes. “I fear any angels amongst us would be far more akin to a drenched cherubim..."


Perhaps he could divert their entertainment to a more-seemly mischief. Your lord father would have my head, and I am far too pretty for that fate...

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The girls' chaperones knew who James was and didn't consider him a threat to their charges as long as he didn't try to take any liberties with them. They wouldn't have approved of Henrietta and Elizabeth rolling about in the snow, but they didn't know the sisters' plans.


“Don't worry about them,” Elizabeth said dismissively, glancing toward the two older women briefly. “They know we aren't going to do anything stupid.” She wished that Lady Blackburn was chaperoning them today, but their second cousin had other plans. The dark-haired widow was always up for a bit of adventure and would have made snow angels with them. And hers would have been the prettiest. She seemed to do everything well.


Henrietta sighed when Lizzie asked Master O'Neill to convince her to make snow angels. Would he try? No, he didn't think it was a good idea. She looked at him with more interest now, and the smile she gave him was genuine. “It does look wet, Lizzie. The sun is melting it and it's probably slushy beneath the top coating. If we lie down in it, we'll get soaked and have to go home immediately.”


Elizabeth gazed longingly at the square for a moment and then turned away with a sigh of her own. Her eyes traveled between Henrietta and James. “You two are conspiring against me,” she accused teasingly. “But I suppose you're right. I don't want to go home yet. I want to do something fun.


Henrietta wished to discourage her sister from making mischief. “I would rather just take a stroll. Walking will warm us up.” She glanced at James, hoping he would take her side again.

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It was not that the thought of snow angels -as wonderfully immature and facetious as it was as to be completely tempting- was an inherently bad one, but (perhaps curiously) with these moments of total realization and grandeur came an odd sort of nerves, a tension brimming under the surface. Neither was this entirely possible to hide, in truth: several obvious tics gave him away. A clench of the jaw here, a brief tapping of his chin with an index finger there...


Not that James himself was aware of this, distracted as he was by Henrietta's own idea. A walk sounded fine, something to burn off the nervous energy and harness the blossoming mood. "First she vouches for my innocence," he murmured, tone barely restraining mischief, cautious smile directed at the older sister threatening to perk upwards into something more honest. "And now she lays in with the accusations. You have my apologies, Lady Henrietta, for what it seems you must put up with."


Chuckling to himself and turning his green eyes onto Elizabeth again, alight with the promised conspiracy, James inclined his head somewhat, hoping to catch her attention. "Surely my company is not so terrible that you'd deprive me the pleasure of escorting you both, Lady Elizabeth? The gardens are notorious for spaniels..." Indeed, he could remember them interrupting the already-bizarre incident of the King's stroll last season. Wherein our inimitable Lord Langdon saw fit to make the most fascinating introduction. Smiling with his most valiant attempt at diplomacy, if the younger Butler met his gaze, he would treat with her a slight jerk of his head, gesturing her into whispering distance as he added more loudly, "And surely I could not be so un-gallant as to leave you two defenseless."

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Master O'Neil was rising ever higher in Henrietta's estimation of him. Maybe when she had asked about his writing, he had been having a bad day. He was certainly charming this morning. If she was known for her wit rather than her intelligence, she might have come up with a reply that further teased her sister, but she wasn't very good with words. Her smile brightened. “Yes, I do have to put up a lot with Lizzie. She can be very annoying sometimes.”


Elizabeth glared at her sister, her hands on her hips. “You are both too cruel.” Her eyes sparkled mischievously when she looked over at James. “If the Life Guards come looking for you again, Master O'Neill, I'm going to tell them where you are.” He would know, of course, that they had never been looking for him at all.


Both girls laughed at his jape about the hazards in the gardens. “Even if you were not pleasant company, which you are, how could we turn down your protection?” Noticing the jerk of his head, Elizabeth moved closer to him. “We certainly don't want to be attacked by killer spaniels, do we, Nettie?”


Henrietta shook her head, unable to think of anything to say.


“Where shall we go?” Elizabeth asked James. There were many interesting places in the gardens to explore.

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