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Sunday Lunch | Continued From Church Thread- Xmas 1677

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"I think you will be better for it!"

They were greeted by Davina's maid Poppy who was quick to observe her Mistresses guest and made her curtsey taking their outdoor coverings and saying to warm themselves by the fire and that she'd see to thier wants.

The Countess would see -

The room was not large but bigger than one say at St Marks yet decidely richer in decoration as well as furnishings. She had been alocated them some years ago now so they refelected her true self with the pale walls and dark wood and the double windows which she had placed a desk in between and now were covered by the rich moss green velvet drapes. At one end was her fireplace that too not large but it heated the space upon which was a marble mantle that held small trinkets and things she'd picked up to dried flowers and a watercolor of Matching her brothers Seat and a clock made from blue china. The room carried the scent of lavender which had been tired up in a bunch then tossed over the logs. Two tables and a small divan occupied the rest of the space and the half open door led to her bedchamber. She would also see Davina's embroidery frame that was set to the right of the hearth for it was a large one and so turned to catch the light from the windows with a chair covered in pale apricot satin beside it. A silver tray placed on the desk held several small glass bottles filled with wine, brandy and a cordial with two crystal glasses.

"Poppy were are both chilled and hungry so send someone for something filling and sweet as well."

She indicated that the Countess take the chair nearest the hearth with a wave of one hand adding that "You needs must be as comfortable as you like! And what will you drink? Muled wine is easily made or there is wine or brandy ...."

"Your journey here was nothing. If you come to see me then there is the normal way which we did not use now. Tis Public in all its areas and will bring you to my door. Tis also easy to meet anywhere else tis just the remembrances that takes some time."

She sat in the tall wooden chair with its scrolled arms and embroidered yellow velvet cushion that was the match to the one the Countess sat in with a sigh of pleasure.

"Tis nice is it not? How do you find London then?"


After handing her cloak to Davina's maid, Anne-Elisabeth walked toward the hearth and stretched out her hands toward the fire as the other woman gave instructions to her maid. The chambers of the Queen's ladies were quite a bit larger than the Countess' tiny room at St. Marks and consisted of both a parlor and a bedroom. The décor was opulent without being gaudy, and Mistress' Wellsley's taste in color and design was elegant and tasteful. It made her long for her own place to decorate as she pleased. Hopefully, she would find one shortly after the season ended that could be fixed up for her during recess. If so, she would be spending the next few months in London supervising the redecorating.


Anne-Elisabeth sat down in the pretty wooden chair, her eyes traveling to the embroidery frame by the window. Her new friend was obviously fond of sewing, a skill that Lady Cambray had no patience for. “I'll have a glass of brandy, please.” she replied, turning her attention back to Davina. She had thought that she was being taken the public way, but apparently their path had been private. The Countess doubted that she would have any reason to use it again, but it was good to know it was there.


“The palace is certainly larger than I expected. I suppose the public way is easy to find. Any servant can tell me where it is.”


Her companion sank into the other chair and Anne-Elisabeth smiled at her. “Your rooms are lovely.” At to London: “I haven't seen much but the palace and the park so far, and I haven't had the opportunity to explore either yet. The park will have to wait until spring. I'm not very good at walking on snow. I was hoping to go shopping before the season ends. I've heard that an establishment called Norringtons is the best place to have a new wardrobe made. Do you order your own gowns from them or do the Queen's ladies have a personal dressmaker?”



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Poppy quietly bustled attending to both with curious looks to the other Lady. A face she had not seen so it must have been Christmas Court that brought her there. She was dressed well enough and her manner spoke of being well bred but looks could also be decieveing and so she would hold off on any real judgements.  A glass was placed as requested on the a table with a small curtsey and she caught her Mistress eye understanding it correctly and let herself out thru the doors intent on getting food as quick as could be expected.

"I have sent Poppy off to procure food and she will not return empty handed." She smiled across to the other. "Whitehall is indeed large and even I have not seen every part. The Public access is easy to remember. They consist of a sequence of rooms that one passes thru known as State Rooms. The outward chambers are Public the inner Private. We are on The Queens side and her set of rooms mirrors the King's. The Precence Chamber is the last of the Public rooms as I have said and tis where Her Majesty holds court, receives Ambassadors and any other that come. The Privy Chamber is the start of the private rooms and only those can be gained by invitation. Tis a mark of how high ones Rank is that determines entry there."

"We are surrounded by apartments and rooms assigned to Courtiers and in daylight you would see that we face the River. The Privy Stairs are on this side. If you have an interest Countess then you should explore. I am sure Dorset would be willing to be 'guide'."

"I was fortunate along with Lord Chichester's sister to be granted them. There are many that are about as well and we are not far from where the Maids of Honor are lodged. How long have you been here then? Ah. Madame Norrington's is quite well know and can provide. As for myself, well, I depend upon my brother for an allowance and even tho I recieve a salary tis not large. I am good with a needle so can turn round my dresses and sleeves yet there are many that have the need to purchase on a regular basis - I am not so lucky. As to a personal dressmaker for myself the answer yes. She is employed by my Lady Mother. I would be happy to pass you her name you have but to ask."

"Where do you wish to purchase for your own residence? Have you a Steward to over-see such matters?"

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Anne-Elisabeth was quite hungry now. If she had gone back to her drab little room, she would have immediately sent one of the servants at St. Marks for some sustenance. She had given Bess the day off to visit family in London. The maid had been born in the village closest to Seabrooke, the Cambray estate, and served the Devereux family for many years. Her son-in-law had found work in London and taken her daughter with him. She had asked to accompany the Countess to court in order to be closer to her daughter and her new grandchild.


Dining with Mistress Wellsley was an unexpected pleasure, and she looked forward to seeing how the fare of the Queen's ladies differed from what she usually ate. Their food was probably of better quality, though Anne-Elisabeth couldn't complain about what she had been served so far. The meals weren't quite as sumptuous as Seabrooke's, but that was understandable. The palace had many more mouths to feed.


She lifted the glass of brandy and took a small sip. The liquor further warmed her and she no longer shook with cold. Davina's rooms were cozy as well as pretty. “I wonder if the King even knows every inch of it. But perhaps I will learn it all eventually.” An amused chuckle. “If Lord Dorset wants to show me around, he will have to offer. I'm certainly not going to throw myself at his feet because that's probably what he expects ladies to do. His arrogance knows no bounds.”


Then again, neither did hers.


“Do many ladies frequent the presence chamber now? I was thinking of visiting it in the next couple of days.” The Countess needed to see how things were done before she planned her strategy to become indispensable,


“I've only been at court a few days, but I arrived in England a little over a year ago. 'Arrived' is actually not the best word to describe it, since I was found in the debris of a shipwreck. My entire family perished and my lord husband passed away soon after we were rescued and taken to his estate. It took me many months to recover from my injuries.”


Anne-Elisabeth took another sip of brandy. “I would be grateful for your dressmaker's name. I prefer not to look like all of the other ladies here. The son of our estate's steward will be taking care of my affairs for me, unless I decide to replace him. I'm not very picky on where I live, as long as it's a neighborhood suited for nobles of my status. I'm more concerned with the house itself. I would like to find a place that has character.”


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"I imagine His Majesty thinks he does. In all seriousness. And that is a task well designed to last for at least a year perhaps even longer!"

"Dorset will seek you I have no doubt. You have peeked his interest in that yours is a 'new face' yet you proved witty and that is no easy thing. Sackville is never altogether unpopular no matter what the business might be but still you should have a care. He is arrogant and yet he is known to be generous to those men of words that have fallen upon hard times. He has many sides. Just as we all do."

She rose suddenly as a 'pop' from the fire sent a small ember out onto the rug and she quickly swept it aside with her booted foot. For fire was the one constant danger and everyone must be careful for memeories of The Great Fire still linger. Taking up a poker she prodded the wood to break apart to avoid anything further. 

"Well I suppose it all depends on which side you go to - King's or Queens. Kings will provide you with more entertainment and yourself to be seen and on this side, well, it is somewhat reduced in activities, with the Queen being with ... still unwell. Yet you needs must come to this side if you wish to have someone sponsor you for a position if one is available after recess - that is not something that I can do. I will put in as many good words as I am able but have no power to sway. By all means return here for there are those about and You will find ME most days or nights when I have Duty."

Her smile turned to concern as she heard about the Countesses travails and she went to her side saying quietly

"That is most awful! A shipwreck? I can not imagine how horriblely frighting that must have been! I am sorry for your loss, truly."

The change in topic was Davina's clue that she should not continue. Weather it was or not she simply thought it was so. 

"Then I shall most happily provide it. She is still very able yet I think her eyes bother but she will come to you initially but then may send another after. Yet I would not avoid Norrington's for there are good things to be had and you might learn some bits and pieces as well - all over-heard naturally!"

"Tis always best to gain knowledge as soon as possible - weather it be for Court or London."

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“Maybe I will make a map, so I'll know where I've been and which areas still need exploring. I wonder if one exists already, though I would rather not look at it if it does. That would take the fun out of discovering everything for myself.”


Anne-Elisabeth swirled the amber liquid around in her glass. “Lord Dorset will want a limerick rematch. Of that, I have no doubt. We'll certainly run into each other again.” She wasn't really surprised to hear that he supported struggling writers. She would do the same for women writers, if she had the means. Maybe she would after she became renowned at court for her wit and her way with words.


She noted Davina's change in words and wondered if the rumors she had heard about the Queen's pregnancy were true. If so, everyone would know soon enough as one couldn't hide the fact that one was with child for long. By spring, it would be quite apparent. “I hope to visit both of them, but yes, I am interested in one of those positions you told me about.” The Countess was pleased that her new friend would put in a good word for her. “I shall definitely do so before the season is over. Perhaps you will be able to introduce me to some of the other ladies there.”


Anne-Elisabeth preferred to say as little as possible about the horrifying incident that had taken everyone she had ever loved away from her. “Thank you,” was her soft reply, a trace of sadness in her voice.


“I look forward to finding out what she can do for me,” she said of the seamstress. “I need to have my spring wardrobe made soon. And no, I won't avoid Norrington's.” She knew the power of acquiring knowledge. Davina was more like her than she had thought. “Maybe we can go there together one day and help each other choose fabrics and trims.”


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There must be a reason suruly for this exchanging of ideas - with another not intimate yet still a stranger. She was curious admittedly and knew that the Countess was Libertine but somehow that did not matter where once if might have. Had she changed so much then in the space of one year? Her relationship with Langdon while still exciting had begun to shift and her thoughts wandered to that night on the staircase and the kiss exchanged between her and Winchilsea and how it had made her feel to be held thus by a man not her lover. Since then she had taken means to ensure that she would not meet but that was an impossibility especially here at Court!

She blinked tnen smiled across to the other saying

"You will find your way round and there is time enough. As for Dorset - you have presented him with a challenge and his Pride will not let it go. You shall have to be clever if you wish to best him or any of them for that matter! He might well plan over the entire Recess so you should as well. Yet I think you maybe quite able to handle him and it will be worth knowning about - you must tell me for I do not move in that Circle."

"If only you had the acquaintance of one of the Ladies already employed it would be easier - can you think of no one that might be helpful? Your Mother-in-law can provide no names that you might use? You will ask for Presence Chamber but if Lady Mountjoy finds you agreeable then you may go to Privy Chamber. Tis all just speculation as nothing will be thought of until Spring. And you will not be the only one who's being put forward. Tis the responsibility of those employed to further the advances of their Family after all so sisters, daughters, nieces all the unmarrieds will be put up for Maids of Honor; then the married ones for Presence and Privy. Bedchamber is the Highest but only a Duchess may go there and there is no opening. At least that I have heard."

She went to the desk and took up the decanter going back to the Countess to refill if she wished then did her own.

"Poppy should be returning and as its Sunday I expect we shall have chicken or capon, some beef, perhaps salad and cheese with a custard or tart. She will see it all carried here in her usual way!"

"After the New Year I should be happy to see you there. That establishment is well located and if you have not yet viewed The Royal Exchange then I should be happy to show it. There are diverese pleasure there and I have a place up-stairs that I buy ribbons from also pins then the silks for my embroidery."

The return of Poppy halted her narative and she watched as two servants followed close behind and were directed for placement of the food, given a few pennies, and then departed. Poppy dipped a small curtsey saying that she'd leave then to serve themselves.

"There is chicken in almond sauce. Some cold meats and cheese. A loaf of Manchet. The Tansy* I got afore anyone." Here she gave a smile. "I saw it straightaway. Then some tarts. I've set the claret out as well to drink."

She then gave another small bob and went back out to stay close enough if she was needed.

*Tansy - is a sweet egg omelet but thin like a crepe flavored with Tansy Flower. Tansy has a fruity taste then gives way to a cool heat and its also toxic so eaten in large amounts kills! People often poisoned themselves and woke up feeling rather dark and a bit paranoid!


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“You can be sure that I will be composing limericks during recess whether I stay here in London or go back to my estate. At the ball, Mademoiselle Vauquelin gave me some very interesting information about Dorset that I can use. And I will be searching for more. As for the Merry Gang, they officially made me a part of their circle, so I should be invited to their parties and gatherings.”


Anne-Elisabeth hoped that her revelation didn't cause Davina to change her mind about associating with her, but she wasn't going to lie about something that would probably be gossiped about soon, if it wasn't already making the rounds. She grinned mischievously. “And of course I will let you know what happens with Dorset.” She almost told the other lady that she could come along to the Merry Gang's events as her guest, but she wasn't certain that she wouldn’t be offended by such a proposal.


“My mother-in-law didn't come to court with me so I have not been able to ask her. I confess that we don't get along well, so I am hesitant about revealing my plans to her. It is possible that she might try to sabotage my efforts to obtain a position with the Queen. Is it completely impossible to be accepted on my own merits rather than on another lady's recommendation? There is an appeal to achieving something on one's own.”


Lady Cambray would definitely try to impress Lady Mountjoy before the end of the season. “Is Lady Mountjoy in the Presence Chamber most of the time, even during the holidays, or must I wait until spring to meet her?” She wasn't worried about the other women who would be competing with her. Most of them … if not all of them … would not be her equal in either looks, intelligence, wit, or charm (or ego, which probably rivaled Dorset's). Connections could only get you so far and the Countess was willing to tackle all hurdles in her path and come out as the lady who shines the brightest.


“So not until spring?” Anne-Elisabeth asked, a bit disappointed. She would be visiting Norringtons before then if it was open. “I've never even heard of the Royal Exchange and would be grateful if you showed me around.”


The food arrived then, and it was a bit grander than the fare she was served in her room. “This all looks delicious.” With a laugh, she added: “You can probably hear my stomach growling.” She wanted to dig in, but she remembered her manners and would wait for her hostess' permission.


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Davina made no remarks about Nicolette and would not until she was asked.

"Tis impossible without another Lady's Sponsorship." She went to the table and took up a pewter plate intent on eating and indicated the same to her guest.

"There is a good selection that I think will please you! Poppy has indeed worked her usual. You must try the claret." This all spoke over one shoulder.

"Lady Mountjoy I have not seen so perhaps she is with her own Family. I can always find it out."  

She resumed her seat setting the plate and glass of claret on the small round table that Poppy had instruced be placed between the two women. A white linen 'napkin' lay ready to be used as well. The Countess would also find that a small eating knife with a mother of Pearl handle had been laid for her as well as a silver two-pronged fork.

Davina hid a smile pleased that Poppy had thought of everything. She was curious to hear what her servant's impressions had been when they were alone later. 

"You must understand Countess that there are Rules that are followed here. Tis a process that has to be gone thru. It is not a thing you can do alone no matter how qualified You think you are."

"Why would your Mother-in-Law do so? If that is so then she must come here to Court herself - will she? If not then you needs must make use of Her. She is after all the Dowager Countess and so there must be some that know her name at least to verify when it is checked."

"Lady Mountjoy has final approval so tis Her that You must impress and it will not be an easy thing! A Household Position is coveted by females of Noble Families even tho it offers only a small amount of money. Yet it provides for a place to reside and the chance to See and Be Seen."

"Court is full of deceptions and conspiracies. There is no Privcy save for the closed curtains on your bed. Rumours abound."

"Tis a place I think You might well fit."

She smiled across at the other taking a deep sip of her wine. 

"Well then! I shall have to arrange a visit. You will be amazed I think. You will also see how many Gentlemen also endevour to go where 'we' shop - they to catch a glimpse of a shop-girl rolling up ribbons or other things!"

"Spring it must be Countess. Unless you happen upon Lady Mountjoy and find a way to adress your desire. If that is what you want." 

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Anne-Elisabeth followed Davina's lead, picking up a plate and pouring herself a glass of claret. Maybe obtaining a position without being sponsored had never been done before, but there was a first time for everything and rules were made to be broken. She thought that she might be able to do it if that was the path she chose. Her initial course of action was to find out what went on in the Queen's Presence Chamber. If she liked what she saw, she would plan how to best accomplish her goal.


Maybe she would impress a lady who would agree to sponsor her, although that would almost be like giving in and accepting defeat. She would try it on her own first. “There is no hurry,” she assured Davina. “It might be better for me to familiarize myself with how things are done first, which I can do by listening and observing. And I'd like to find out more about Lady Mountjoy before I meet her, so that I will not accidentally displease her.”


She went back to her seat and filled her plate, noting the fine eating utensils. I need to buy a set like this for myself. The utensils she currently used were of slightly lower quality. Even when she was eating, she had to look her best if she was going to get anywhere at court. There were already factors stacked against her … she was new and unknown, had no family, had grown up on a far-away island … but she would overcome them all with her usual aplomb.


“I can't really blame my mother-in-law for her animosity.” The Countess' fork paused on its way to her mouth. "Imagine how you would feel if your son perished in a shipwreck but the daughter-in-law you never met survived and now owns everything that was once yours. I've been kind to her. She lives in the same manner as she always did, but she is still bitter towards me.


“She's told me very little about herself and tries to avoid contact with me. Maybe she would be happy for me to serve the Queen if I stay away from the estate.” Anne-Elisabeth shook her head. “I don't even know if she was popular at court or if she was reviled. She and my late husband's father might have been the sort of people that preferred to stay in the country. Or worse yet, they could have supported Cromwell and the Protectorate. Maybe she doesn't approve of our King and wants a return to the old ways.


“So far, nobody I've met has heard the name Cambray. I think it's better to recreate its reputation anew rather than struggle with the baggage of its past. And it's not as if she can help me much. I am more a stranger to her than I am to you and am not a part of her family by blood, only by a very brief and tragic marriage.”


Anne-Elisabeth began to eat in a delicate and refined fashion. “This is all delicious!” she exclaimed. “I think I should like a place in the Queen's household for the food alone!” She didn't care about the money, but perhaps she could make use of the rooms she was given, even if she also had her own place in London.


“Conspiracies even lurk in your bed if you're married,” she pointed out. Or if a lover shares that bed with you, she added to herself. “Do you really think I'll fit in? I believe that is most important. The ladies who don't will not last very long.” If she wasn't chosen initially, perhaps she could hop into the position of a woman who didn't work out.


“Then I shall look forward to visiting Norrington's with you.” The image that popped into her mind of gentlemen peeking through the window to watch ribbons being rolled was quite amusing. “Do they make gentleman's clothing as well?”


She took a sip of claret. “I don't mind waiting until spring. I still must determine if serving the Queen is the right choice for me. I will definitely visit her presence chamber before the end of the season, though. And the King's as well.”


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Davina listened to the litany without commenting thinking that this Lady was not one to conform to anything if she could help it. Yet appealing as that might be there were still things that had a certain Order and they must be followed.

"If you wish to succeed here at Court Countess then best to 'learn' quickly. By all means observe and soak up as much as possible. There are many who feed on making a new face uncomfortable simply for amusement or wager and you will be no different. You have no Male Protector that by use of Name alone will assure your Safety and provide any assistance. A woman alone is a rare thing and many will find it questionable."

"Ah. So making use of your Mother-in-law is not possible then? Is Devereux your husbands family name? If you no nothing then might I suggest you pay a vist to Sir Edward Bysshe he is the current Clarenceux King of Arms and as Fortune would have it his office is at Westminster - the old lodging having been burned to ground in the Great Fire and rebuilding is still not complete - tis in a set of apartments known as the Queens's Court yet bears no tie to Her Majesty. He will most certanily be able to trace your husband's Family Name as far back as there are written records! He will be able to tell you when the Earldom was conferred by date so then you will know your own Precedence place amongst all the other Countesses. Why you might find that you do indeed have family after all!"

Pausing to chew and then take a drink of claret then another.

"Why would you create a Tale when you could very well obtain what you need? Well that is your Business."

Davina smiled pleased that the food selection was being praised. "Poppy has a keen eye and knows my tastes which it seems we share."

"As for Lady Mountjoy ......."

She paused collecting her thoughts.

(ooc: I am not sure what character descriptions have been written for Lady Mountjoy and if they have followed Historically or been 'fudged' for game purposes. I don't want to have Davina tell Anne-Elizabeth about her and its not what the Driver has written).

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“Listening and observing are the best ways to learn anything and I started as soon as I arrived at court. I learned quite a lot from the ball and during the gift-giving ceremony, I listened to the conversations of the courtiers around me and made note of their gifts … well, those I could see. The sleigh race yesterday was also enlightening. Not only did I meet a few new people, but I now know that I need to stay away from those two gentlemen who were responsible for that unfortunate accident you were involved in. They look like trouble.” She grinned mischievously. “Not that I am completely against trouble. One just needs to choose one's mischief wisely.”


Anne-Elisabeth shrugged nonchalantly when Davina pointed out that she had no man to protect her. “I can take care of myself and I don't fear insults or ridicule. Those who make newcomers uncomfortable are trying to undermine their confidence so they won't be a threat to them. I have confidence in spades and I consider those underhanded tactics as a compliment. The courtiers who employ them believe that I might rise higher or faster than they do.” If she did have  a gentleman's protection, she would be obligated to him and she treasured her independence. "Also, if insulting me makes them feel better about themselves, then I will have done my good deed for the day."


She continued to partake of the delicious meal her friend's servant had procured for them as she listened to Davina inform her of how she could find out more about her husband's family. In truth, she wasn't sure if she wanted to know and the less family the better. What if Arthur had a male relative he had not known about? He would be able to take everything she had away from her. Obscurity was sometimes a good thing.


“I'll keep that in mind. If I do go back to Seabrooke during recess, I may try to charm my mother-in-law into telling me the family history. I never planned to make anything up. By starting anew, Cambray will gain a reputation based on how well I do at court and whatever happened in the past can stay there. If my late husband's family was well-known and respected, it seems to me that somebody would remember them, though perhaps I haven't met those people yet. My title meant nothing to Dorset and he's been at court a long time. I don't think His Majesty recognized the name either when I was introduced to him. Maybe the Devereuxs were just unremarkable garden-variety courtiers who kept a low profile.”


Anne-Elisabeth sipped her claret.  "There  is no need to tell me about Lady Mountjoy yet.  I doubt I will run into her before the next season begins."


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Regarding the two Gentlemen she offered

"You will hold your own if you involve those two. ANd yes I expect Trouble would be a part of it."

She smiled at the idea of this Lady let lose upon them....

"You are full of Bravado and as such have missed the true meaning. The fact you have no Male Family member with you who, by his Name alone, offers you Protection against any that would seek to take advantage - in whatever form that might be - marks you out as 'odd'. This is a World ruled by Men and it will always be thus and we are but devices that are to be used in however a manner that accomplishes the desired Goals. That place you come from - was it not also Ruled by men? You are foolish indeed if you think you will not need a Man's protection. Now what form that Man might take is up to you."

"You can seek another husband or keep it simple and take a Lover - preferbly one who is married. He will then have it put about amongst those he wants to know thus you will be seen as 'belonging' to that Gentleman and so Proteted. Any that wish to cause you ill would then faced having to deal with Him."

"Confidence is well and good and no doubt served you well on that island but this is LONDON and to be here at Court requires Skill."

"It may seem as if I preach yet tis not so. I have taken a liking to you Countess and so do not want to see you run down because you have not adjusted your thoughts from that place you came from to here."

"Tis up to you regarding finding of information or not." A small shrug of one shoulder. "I have no real interest."

"Do not underestimate Dorset. How do you know it meant nothing? Because he did not react to its saying? As for His Majesty NEVER assume anything. He catches even the smallest of details and his memory is fierce."

"If you made it known that you searched for those that have a rememberance of your Family perhaps some miight come forth. It would be wonderous indeed if that name connected back to the Devereaux Essex! That Earl has died and now the Title lies with Capell and he himself wed to a daughter of Percy the 10th Earl of Northumberland and you could do far worse than claim a kinship to the Percy's!"

"Do I not spin a good Tale Countess? Anything is possible I suppose. Lady Mountjoy shall then be left for another meeting."

"Come. Let us drink a toast to your arrival and to the many 'adventures' I am sure are yet to come!"

She smiled across to the younger woman her glass held out half way between them.

"To Success."

Her blue eyes twinkled in amusement. Here then might just be the diversion she needed herself. 

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There were exceptions to every rule, and Anne-Elisabeth thought of herself as quite exceptional. She needed no man to take advantage of her while 'protecting' her from the deceitful intentions of others. The Countess was likely more intelligent and more clever than the average gentlemen, and could possibly detect a threat before they did. Lovers would come and go and she supposed she could always manipulate them into offering her security while still remaining in control of her life.


“It was much the same in Barbados. There were not so many rules to follow but gentlemen were still in charge. It was more dangerous there. Some of the natives were hostile and pirates were always a menace. The environment posed hazards as well. London seems to me like a much safer place.


“I would like to have a family, so eventually I will marry again. Just not in the immediate future. I'm not ready to give up my freedom so soon after I gained it. But perhaps you are right, and I will need a gentleman to take care of me. I shall just have to choose the best offer. Your advice is greatly appreciated, Mistress Wellsley, and I have taken a liking to you too. I am too new at court to know its ways. That is something else I will have to learn.”


Anne-Elisabeth's dark eyes took on a thoughtful expression. “If either Lord Dorset or His Majesty recognized my name, my husband's family must not be out of favor or they would have shunned me. That is a plus, I suppose.”


She had been focusing on the negative aspects of finding out more about Arthur's origins while Davina was focusing on the positive. It would, indeed, be splendid if her husband was a relative of a powerful family. She decided the matter was definitely worth looking into. “It would make things a lot easier for me if that was true. They could help me find a position in the Queen's household among other things. I think it would seem like an insult to my mother-in-law if I actively sought information without attempting to ask her first, but if she is not forthcoming, I shall pursue that option in the spring.”


Mistress Wellsley proposed a toast and Lady Cambray smiled, extending her own glass and clicking it against the one her friend held.. “Both yours and mine, and also to all of the adventures that we will have together.” Anne-Elisabeth really liked Davina and  she would never think of trying to corrupt her.  However, there were plenty of things that they could do without compromising her integrity or getting her in trouble with the Queen.


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  • 1 month later...

It was about then that a servant that had arrived and lingered stepped forwards.  "Ahh... Mistress Davna, there is a gentlman who wishes to speak with you. He is waiting in the Presence room. Here, his card." which was presented her upon a silver tray with a yellow rose. 



Earl Chichester

George Hardwick III

Long Live the King!


Perhaps George had not forgotten her request to speak after Church after all? 

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She reached out a hand taking up the card and turned it over to read then the rose which she sniffed. The servant was dismissed with a nod knowing that Poppy lingered nearby and would give him a penny or two for his troubles.


Once his name made her heart beat fast and she looked with anticipation to meeting him. But now, well, it was a memory from a time past and those feelings were gone. Her heart had healed and she had thought of him now and gain as he had left London hopoing that he was well and suffered not. His silence regarding her note had made her think he had no wishg to see her so this was a surprise. Yat what to do? Poppy came to her side as ever curious and took the card and then looked to her Mistress saying

"Best change your gown then. I think the somber gray suits the mood but then that may give the wrong impression. Perhaps the cranberry velvet - they skirts have been brushed clean and I made right the small tear in the sleeve ... I'll take them out of the chest and heat some water."

She did not give the card back but went instead to the table where the decanter and glasses still stood and poured some brandy into a glass and took it back adding with a small smirk "Drink up. Oh not that I think you need it but it takes care of the surprise."

Davina was silent nodding at the dress choice and did as bid and drank the contents in one go.


Meeting George 

She look good. Poppy had been right in the dress for the color added to her rather pale complexion and her black hair was a good foil. The single strand of perals at her throat were full of creamy luster with a touch of pink and she wore the matching earrings. Nothing in her manner gave indication of her inner thoughts. She wound her way through corridor and hall until she reached the side of the Presence stopping just inside the doors and took note of its comings and goings for they were still in the twelve Days of Christmas and many Courties remained. Her eyes looke and found and she made a slow progress to where he had placed himself. Once close enough she curtsied saying

"Lord Chichester. I have come as asked."

She waited for his greeting and then would rise up. 

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George watched her, ever appreciative of the decorum that she held about her.  Cranberry velvet pooled around, and the Earl bowed extending his hand to take hers to kiss. "As have I, likewise." he uttered with a smile lopsided with wry.  She might note that he wore the short string of pearls , pearls that had belonged to his mother, given to her then returned, now strung about his collar once again. 

"You look fine Mistress Wellesley, I trust you and your Lord brother has been keeping well this winter season."

He made a gesture towards seating near the fireside, for he recalled that she did not enjoy the chill.  Once she was seated he took a chair adjacent. 


Edited by George Hardwick III
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She accepted his Salute with a small smile all the while appraising him as he had her. That he was the same as she remembered came as a relief and he one again wore his Lady Mother's Pearls.

"We are both well thank you."

How Polite and observant of the Social Niceties they both were.

She followed his gesture and arranged herself adding "You remember then? My adversion to being cold."

Her blue eyes were steady as they looked back at the Earl as she waited his response. She would give him the lead but it had been her after all that had requested to meet with him so the time would come when she must speak. Neither would be making a scene and perhaps his place of meeting was done for that reason - was he now that unsure of her or himself? 

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"Of that I am pleased to hear." he replied, and after a pause added, "I had always thought that your brother and I could make fine friends one day." 

She was seated, the folds of the fabric shimmered silver pink highlights, while the porcelain pale glow of her skin was most complimentary.  Her pose there would make a very pretty painting. 

"I remember a great many things my lady." he returned, undoing the front button of his jacket to allow himself comfort in the chair.  "Your aversion to the cold, and to other things." he puffed a wry laugh. It had been months ago now that she had refused him, but he had indeed moved on. 

“I trust that these days you find more pleasures about your existence?”

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He still held to that way of looking - as if in his thoughts he did placements for his painting - and she knew her position now would suit that but that thought now made her sad.

"Baintree is likable so perhaps that will be so."

Ah. There it was said but she knew what was implied and so she would go in that direction. She looked down at her clasped hands for a moment then raised her head to look at him directly. He might see she was nervous and her words when spoken were soft in pitch for his ears alone.

"Will you permit me to speak without interruption? The words I want to say are sincere and from my heart. Will you hear them?"

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"All good things take time." 

If the brother was half the calibre of the sister, George would enjoy his company much.   It was odd perhaps that they had barely met eyes across the room before now, though George was sure the brother was aware of what had been going on, and kept a reserved eye upon their progress.  Chances had been that one day George would approach Braintree with regard the match, but now that was all water under the bridge. 

She clasped here hands, the feminine restraint was fetching upon her.  Then she spoke, 'requesting the floor' so to speak.

"I have always been fond of your voice, please continue freely."  said he.

There was a chance she had a scolding for him, he was possibly guilty of a neglect, having fled to Italy after their breakup.  He'd been hurt, confused and distraught, distraught at his confusion and hurt. She had come to mean far more to him than he'd realised.  It had been an identity crisis of s sort as he questioned who he was beyond what he thought himself to be.  Yes there was a chance she had a scolding for him, and she was perhaps the only woman in England that he would accept such from... but perhaps it was something else, words kinder perchance.  The Earls dark eyes looked across at her, emotions reserved. 

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She took a breath her eyes roaming about the space not really 'seeing' anything or anyone. Perhaps she was testing herself to see if this was what she WANTED? Yes. The Time was at hand and it was a thing long over-do.

A breath. The another ...

"There is I believe many things that could be said but there is but a few that truly must be said. You wounded me. Deeply. That day at The Tower. I had thought, no expected, that you were going to say I was to be your Countess. We both knew the objections to follow but I was sure they would be overcome and that Happiness would then soon follow. What I found instead was that I was being set aside with little reasonings. I had not thought that direction you see. Never did it even occur to me that there was another woman."

"I had never seen you with another - one that you held in such Esteem I mean - and I tried to call to mind the identy of the one that had captured your heart. But I could not. You did not give me cause just stood there saying it 'would never work between us' that you could not love me in the way I deserved."

"I was unprepared for it so I struck back. A Hurt for a Hurt."

" I fled. I went to Matching offering no explinations to any not even Baintree. Days then weeks and I was ill for some time  .." She did not add 'nothing serious' better to let him imagine it. "I spent hours walking trying to think of ways I had been wrong. Or what I so lacked that had made you seek out another who was Better."

"After a time I came to understand that there was no fault within me and so was able to cast back and think again about all the times we had been together. Back to the beginnings and those days at Windsor ..." Here she smiled across to him. "Happy days and how my heart would sing at seeing you. How I dreamed that there would be a Future for us two. All the things that young women hope for. It is a funny thing - that re-visiting of ones Past - and how suddenly things become much clearer. I was able to see how I had mistook your friendship for something else and thus I led myself into the conclusions. You had no Fault."

She gave a small sigh

"And then that day came. Except I had failed to understand that what I felt was not the same for you. I am Sorry for that. A friendship was all that you wanted and so you intended to tell me of the one you were to marry but instead we both caused pain to the other."

"I asked to see you to say all of this. To say that it is alright now. I do not Hate you. How could I?"

"I had thought to hear you married by now - that your return was to bring Her to Court. Now I wish only for your Happiness. Tis Truth George. And perhaps, one day, we two might be friends again."

All her words had tumbled out one after the other leaving him no doubt as to their sincerity and that she had spoke from the heart. That she did not Hate him after all.

She sat back then her blue eyes on his dark ones trying to gauge his reactions. 

Would he be as before and angry or might he too have mellowed? It was a risk but one that had to be taken. Time to lay aside the Past. 

How he replied and acted would tell enough and she was she thought prepared for his leave taking having felled her again by his words. If that was to be then so be it. At least she would be able to be free of all that had tormented her by being unsaid.

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She had wanted no interruption, and so he held his tongue – though her speech gave him surprises at many turns, even made him doubt his own memories of their ill fated courtship.   Oh the arguments they had had, over things so small.  The unexpected explosions, Davina was a woman of high passion – which was possibly the last lesson he'd finally come to appreciate about her. 

So he listened, and after she finished he remained quiet, digesting… there was a part of his mind that suddenly wondered if all hope was not truly lost? But did he dare try again.  Their hurts had been many, and only now many months later were when even able to speak again.  Friendship was offered, was possible, this gambling man supposed that was the safest bet.

“We have had many misunderstandings you and I, some quite profound.”  He begun in a quiet way, not judging either of them for any shortfall.

“Much of it not really important I suppose, but I feel a need to explain for your hearts sake, that when I spoke of a previous love there had never been any future in it. And that one is now far away, better for their sake and my own.”  Greyson.  He’d not even dared to think about that man, but now that he felt his heart was still affected by him.  Yes George knew he'd been played by darling dear yet passively egocentric Sam. 

“I am sincerely sorry for the hurt I gave you.  I admire you much, your natural grace, your capability, your insight, even the forthright of your opinions is worthy of respect.  It is my hope, unworthy as it might be, that I keep you as a friend.”

“We have been through so much together.” This last he said with a small smile of hope.  It had been a relief to hear she did not hate him.

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The waiting seemed to be forever yet was perhaps but a few moments. Her eyes fixed on his face did not alter as she listened yet her mind was busy  ....

he is unwed? how can this be so when he was so assured of it but months ago. just who was this woman that took her leave leaving him thusly? 

He was not angry instead courted her accomplishments and then offered praise. He too wished for a friendship and it was those words quietly said that affected her the most.

She looked away her dark head tilted down so that he would not see the tears that welled up threatening to spill over onto her cheeks. Her gesture of back of hand to face would not go unnoticed she knew and so what she did next was without thought.

She rose from her chair taking a few steps forward and gave him a perfectly executed reverance as her way of accepting his apology and then, because her Pride demanded it, raised her head and met his gaze completely saying

"I should welcome that above all things .... That we two have the same presence of mind  .... I wish you a Happy New Year Lord Chichester for you are deserving of it ...."

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Davina had reached some very wrong conclusions, perhaps they had grown exaggerated still in her grief when their courtship had suddenly ended so very un well.  He had never lied to her that he was courting another, but had told her as much as he could do so honestly without incriminating himself.  Though any of that now seemed a whole lifetime away. 

She looked away, he knew it was to hide a depth of emotion.  How did he know this?  Because he felt it as well.  But those feelings remained unspoken, never more would he press this woman.  Her future was her own to choose.

She made a sudden movement, and he stood to match it - though without time to refasten his button before she made a brave statement. And she, glassy eyed. 

His smile softened upon her, she was so brave.

"Then let us cherish our friendship to times indefinite." was his reply, "finding our unity in that, with no more broken hearts nor tears." his hand touched her cheek and thumb wiped away the glistening trail.   "I too, wish you the most wonderous year."   


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He stood to match her and when he touched her cheek and the one tear that had perched precariously on her lower lashes slipped and drifted down where it was caught and wiped away. His smile just might be her undoing and that made her aware of where they both stood.

"I shall Promise whole-heartedly no more tears but as to my heart ..." She gave a small laugh ... "That I have no control over!"

She made to put some space between them as the urge to want to be held in his embrace came to her suddenly and that caused her cheeks to be tinged with her blush which she thought no longer possible for she was hardly a Maiden.

"Shall we sit again and will you summon a servant and let us drink a small toast and then tell me of your Travels and what things you saw ...."

She was once again in charge of herself and able to continue on. Secure now that they had turned a corner and left all of the Past behind. Twas soon to be a New Year and it was Fortutious that they had met.

They made a good looking couple arranged as they were by the fire private yet in full view of Court. She was amused a bit and looked again this time giving some attention to who was about before she looked back to Lord Chichester and smiled.  

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It would have been so simple to slip back into the old ill-fated ways.  He was fond of her, more than that, something about her very nature simply sung to him.   They would have made such a fine pair.  Though it would never have been easy, he was an artist come philosopher needing patience and indulgence, and she was a woman yearning for reckless passion and bold romance.

Yes it would have been so easy to want for ‘them’ again, and her return caveat upon her heart (even if laughed) told him that she also felt that aching vulnerability, that the futures they had envisaged seemed for a moment, possible.

He dared not reply vocally, but a sadness in his eyes said more than any words could.     

And then they were recomposing, the flushed Davina suggesting him back to his seat. With a nod he complied, “It was a fine expedition to places well known in my youth.” He uttered in introduction to the subject she put forth.  Lifting his hand he motioned a servant, and asked for tea and sweets to be sent.  

“It is always interesting, retuning somewhere you have not been many years, to discover how much stays just the same, yet it seems so different due to the changes one’s own life had brought upon oneself. “ He paused allowing her comment, perchance she had witnesses such a thing herself?

Edited by George Hardwick III
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He did not answer yet she knew for twas there in the way he looked back at her. That he too had thought, even for a moment, of things now possible yet knowing the impossibility. 

She resat herself and when he asked for tea she requested wine as well needing the alcohol rather than the brewed water. Now composed she gave him her full attention.

"I am curious. I have never traveled beyond these shores and think it unfair that those of my sex are thus restricted from that. Do you remember a Season past and that Ship .... I was eager for Adventure yet when it came was not the kind I would have choosen."

Her head tilited a bit to one side as he continued her eyes roving over his person noticing the changes. He seemed to be calmer in manner and less conflicted and yet there was an aloofness as well.

"It is I think much like when I go to Matching. Even tho tis not far in distance from London it seems another place when there. I look forward to it but once there I am not satisfied and find fault with many things. You are correct - it is not the place that has changed but myself."

"And how do you find London now? And those about you?"

"What will you do for Recess? Shall you Travel again?"

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What she said was very true for herself – though there were some women who travelled it was not going to be the case for Davina.  Her conservative family would never endorse it.  George gave a nod of head, recalling how the subject made her distraught.  “It is so often the case that the things we cannot have are the very things we yearn most for… yet those that hardly appreciate something seem to have a glut of the treasure one so prizes.” He mused, “Would logic follow that if one could alter their desires to want none of it, then reckless happenchance would bring that very thing into our lives.”

It was a thought, though one that would likely never be tested and proven.

“Ah, but yes the mysterious island.” George then remembered with a smile, “It begun so well, I did enjoy the puzzle boxes. But I doubt that you and I are the only ones who wished they had never set foot upon the ship.”

“My own recent journey was nothing so eventful. I stayed a time with the family I boarded with in Florence, I designed some new gates for Dulwich that they shall forge. Had I mentioned they have a small foundry? Then I spent a few weeks with old art colleagues.   I brought some paintings from various ones, because I am now able, and know how great a difference a sale makes to a hungry artist.” He relayed details that might seem quite menial, though from his perspective they were not.  

Yet still, he’d realised during his visit to Italy, just how much a changed man he was now.

“Our lives shall be continual change.” He agreed with her comment following her reflections of Matching.  That discontent she had now discovered with the place, he understood too.

"Ah but I sincerely happy to be returned to England, I am fully fledging the life complete with a conversion to Anglicanism you might have heard.  One part of my motivation was the sense that I had, while in Italy, that is was somehow traitor to my country to heed the council of a priest who spoke only Italian. I am none to blind to not know that the Popes men would meddle in our politics.  I would not be a vehicle for some plot.”

He wondered if he’d been screened that time in the Red Lion, and with fools luck had not 'passed' the grade. So easily he might have wound up in deep deep trouble that night.

“No I shall remain in England, and if I am fortunate shall do so forever more.” He stated in a pleased tone. “I have nothing particularly planned for the remaining winter months however…” a dark eyebrow rose, “have you?”

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"Italy is Beautiful?" She leaned a bit forward in her chair like a girl waiting for a Story her blue eyes bright. "I have only seen pictures. This I did not know - a foundry? Of all things! What are they like? These Gates of yours."

"You have always been thus - supportive. Tis a fine Quality. Might I come see them sometime if you allow it."

She gave him a half smile.

"Yes I know of it. And Baintree has gone the same way and because of that so must I. It was hard in the beginning. I over thought and saw only that no good would come of it. Now with talk of Marriage in my Future it does not matter."

She lied of course. Just as many did who appeared without qualm on the outside yet feard for their Souls on the inside. She wondered but would not ask if he pracrticed in secret like others did. She herself did and if Baintree knew he did not speak it. She was but a player in the Game.

She did not offer him a reply to his speech about Popes and Plots.

"I must wait on the Queen. Do you know anything in that regard? What talk have you heard?"

"I should like to go someplace but I am limited for tis Winter and most of Baintree's properties are far and Matching holds no allure. I suppose, like many, I shall remain in London. With a warm fire and food and drink at hand. I have been drawing a few new designs to occupy the long Winter days and I find I quite like the solitude of needlework. Is it the same for you - when you paint?"

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"Well, it cities are much like any city, cramped with buildings. What is more notable ther than here, is the shaping by the Romans.  Circular town ‘squares’ for instance, where once the buildings were built around a gladiator arena.”  George replied.

Davina then asked a question he happily relished. He’d mentioned his gates to any number of persons now, but she was the first to ask what they were like!  “I fear they may be a tad pretentious, but when the idea came to me, no other would then take it’s place.  The gates are like a pair of angels wings!  When closed they shall radiate a sense of protection, and then opened, welcoming one in. Really they shall be too fine for Dulwich, will deserve to be admire – thus I choose not to confine them to the back country at the Chichester estate.”

"You certainly may.” Of the artworks he replied, warmed by her compliment.  “I intent an exhibition, and have secured Lady Habisham as it’s patroness. She is a fine and upstanding woman, but no doubt you know this, she is well recognised at court.” George had chosen Edith for strategic reasons, her guest list would be comprehensive. What was unsaid was quite how well they got along though, George with his smooth flattery and she with a rather girlish appreciation. “Next spring shall be full of new revelations. I shall put your name, and Baintrees of course, upon the top of my personal guest list.”  

"Has he?” This was something George did not know ‘an ally indeed!’  It was all the more reason to make the acquaintance of Davina’s elder brother. 

He understood the mental difficulty of conversion she spoke of, he too had resisted it for the same reasons for a long time.  “I hope you will find Dr Spratts sermons enlightening then, the man is a fine thinker and with the endorsement of The King.  Toleration shall surely become the new catch phrase for all England’s religions, though not quite yet, that is certainly our Kings greater aim.”  George felt pride in knowing that about CR.  It was pleasing to have a specific thing to feel proud of ones monarch in.

His question upon her recess plans drew an unexpected reply. 

The eyebrow that had risen, rose a further sixteenth of an inch more.  "Of the Queen I have heard nothing.”  But Davina made him wonder now.  Are the rumours true then, could she be near to birth. With the quantities of fabric women wore it was nigh upon impossible to otherwise tell. Was Davina here hinting that staying in London was wise if one wanted to witness the birth of England next King. 

“You will advise me of any developments in that regard, I trust?” George cautiously asked. 

“Mayhaps I shall remain in Dulwich myself then.”  While George actually had a hankering to return home, it had been 6 or more months since he’d been there. 

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