Jump to content


Your Stories Await Telling

Pretty But Perilous | Sunday, Late Afternoon, Open- Xmas 1677

Recommended Posts

Near the palace door closest to St. Mark's Hall


She didn't really want to go out in the snow, but if she wished to go back to her room, she would have to brave it. The sun was beginning to set and she needed to get back before it was fully dark.


In truth, Anne-Elisabeth had no desire to go back to that dreary little space. She wished she had apartments in the palace. Then she wouldn't have to risk falling and breaking her neck on the pretty but perilous blanket of white covering the ground. She had made it to church and had strolled around the grounds with Mistress Wellsley, but it was only a matter of time before her luck ran out.


She remembered how she would watch visitors stumble in the sand on Barbados and how stupid she has thought they were. The English probably thought the same about her and her awkwardness in the snow. Now she wished she had gone out more last winter and familiarized herself with it.


Sighing, she approached the door that led to St. Mark's Hall, but she remained in the corridor, hoping that maybe someone would happen along who was going in the same direction and wouldn't mind lending their assistance to aid her across the snow. How she would convince a courtier to help her, she didn't know, but she was clever and would come up with some kind of plan.


And so she lingered, dreading to face the elements alone. She wasn't scared. No, she told herself, I'm only being cautious.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Anne Elizabeth!" Nicolette called as she recognised the figure, slipping one hand out of her fur muff she waved also.  Trying to catch the ladies attention as she quickened her steps, hoping to catch her before she moved off here or there.  "I’m over here!"  

There was some little distance to cover, ample time for her companion to notice that Nicci was wearing an especially beautiful white fur coat complete with a matching hat and mat. The pure whiteness set off the brightness of her eyes by contrast, and ruby red of her lips that was broad with a welcoming smile.   Breath puffed little clouds from those lips as she hastened to catch up to her newest friend.  

“I had hoped to see you!”  Nicci moved to give the ever fashionable air kisses either side of the others cheeks. 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anne-Elisabeth turned at the sound of her name and smiled warmly as Nicolette approached her. She looked very pretty in her white fur coat. The Countess was still wearing the same outfit she had worn to church, as she had not yet been back to her room since her visit with Davina. Her sapphire velvet gown was covered by an amber moire silk cloak lined and trimmed with red fox fur. Its hood was pulled up over her raven hair. She preferred hoods over hats because they  framed her face and kept it warm … and she liked the way the fur tickled her cheeks. Her gloved hands were covered by a matching  red fox muff.


“Ah, my Lady of Misrule!” Anne-Elisabeth returned Nicolette air kisses, genuinely happy to see her friend. “You look quite lovely today. I'm trying to get up the courage to brave the snow, but I dread going out in it again. It is so easy to slip and fall, as you saw me do at the sleigh race yesterday. I do not wish to repeat the experience.”


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nicci was very pleased she was not wearing her fox also (the one that Douglas had given her) for ladies hated to dress matching! 

Yet at her friends discloure she laughed with a measure of surprise, "You mean you really are as unsteady in the snow as you seemed at the sled race?!  Why I thought that was a clever ploy." with a broad smile she winked cheerfully.  "you know how men love to be heroic.  You afforded them an opportunity they no doubt relished!"

"But if you like,  we could walk with held hands,  and you can try to get the method of it while I can steady?" Nicci extended her hand"... after all ladies like us do do desire our own independance." 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

“No, it was not a ploy. I'm much more comfortable walking in sand than in snow. I've fallen a few times since I arrived at court, but luckily nobody saw me except at the sleigh race. I find the walk from the palace to St. Marks the most precarious. So many courtiers have gone back and forth that the snow has been trampled into ice. Yet if you don't walk on the path, you could stumble over something that is hidden beneath the snow.”


Anne-Elisabeth grinned impishly when Nicolette winked at her. “Yes, now that I know how much the gentlemen adore coming to my rescue, I think that I will keep up the pretense, even when I'm able to navigate the snow with confidence. One can't have too much male attention, after all.” Her friend was as flirtatious and as adventurous as she was, so she was sure that the Frenchwoman would agree.


“Yes, that might work,” she remarked thoughtfully. “And when we get to my room, you can come in for a glass of coconut rum, if you would like to try it.” The Countess slipped one gloved hand out of her muff and extended it toward Nicolette.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Perhaps Elizabeth-Anne was naturally clumsy?  Nicolette had not noticed that about here at the Ball though, she had seemed to be able to dance well enough.  "Oh." she blinked as her new friend described walking winter paths as so difficult. 

"You don’t think you are just worrying it into an obstacle for yourself?"  she encouraged, "It is like when you get a mark on your bodice, it seems like such a problem, but the more you worry at it with a kerchief about it the worse-r the problem it bcomes." 

"There that is the spirit." Nicci cooed as AnneE was sensible (to her way of thinking at least).  "If you like you can pretend to slip for Sir Burgoyne too, when we are all out on our river-walk." she took the others hand and begun to walk the path as she casually informed of the looming date. "He loves me and shall try to appear exclusive of course, but I am next to certain he shall love you with equal passion quickly."

"Coconut Rum?" Her attention was caught, while tone hinting that she wanted to hear more about this liquid tread "Well I do happen to be partial to coconut macarons..." her mouth begun to water for a taste!

Edited by Nicolette Vauquelin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Looking clumsy was what Anne-Elisabeth was trying to avoid. She had only been at court a few days and once you were labeled with an undesirable trait, it was difficult to shake. “You might have a point,” she told Nicolette, her expression thoughtful. “I am worried about what courtiers will think of me if I fall frequently and so I am a bit wary of walking in the snow. I should look at it as an adventure instead of a problem.” Her smile broadened. “And I shall start now, with you to help me face it.”


The door was opened for them and they stepped outside. The Countess gripped the Frenchwoman's hand a bit tightly, while looking down for patches of ice. “A river walk?” She looked up at her friend. “Is that an upcoming court event? I have not heard of it. And who is Sir Burgoyne? Are you sure you don't mind sharing his attention?” Nicolette said that he loved her so casually that Anne-Elisabeth felt that she didn't return the gentleman's affections. Why would she, when only yesterday, Nicolette had basked in the company of the King at the sleigh race?


“I missed it so much that I acquired a rather large supply of it last year. It is quite common in Barbados.  If you like macaroons, you'll adore it.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Oh is that all." Nicci made a sweeping gesture with hand.  "Shall I tell you what the other courtiers will be thinking?  They will be thinking only about themselves! Really they are the last people we should worry about -- oh, unless they are handsome and well connected. But you've already proved you have a knack for those ones!" she laughed brightly.

Her hunch about Elizabeth Anne was proving more and more correct (and Nicci did love to be right!) They were becoming the best-est of friends, and so quickly! 

Holding her hand to help steady, Nicci took care to walk with care just in case she had to become the anchor midst Annies foot-slip.

"It's a private appointment." She then revealed in a soft tone, John Burgoyne is a Baron, and a kind and gentle man - he practically saved me at my first English ball when that awful man Roos was... shocking.  Oh but anyhow, I had mentioned how we were talking about swimming naked you see, and he, well he's rather literal as many men are, and it gave him the idea of a walk at the river." she gave a light laugh, "I wish I'd been talking about laying on a rug in front of a fire naked instead, - for our outing would have been a warmer one at least!" 

"But of course I agreed on the condition that you attend as well." 

"I am terribly thirsty to try some of your rum now." and then she had an idea, "Ooh, shall we take some snow with us to your room, we could use the Coconut Rum as a snow topping!" 

Edited by Nicolette Vauquelin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anne-Elisabeth didn't care what people thought of her as long as it was true. They could talk all they wanted about her blatant flirtatiousness, her boldness, her foul mouth, and her complete disregard for proper behavior. But she was not clumsy. Usually she walked with grace, and she didn't want to become known as the Clumsy Countess because she kept falling in the snow. Most courtiers didn't know she had spent most of her life on a tropical island and had not even seen snow until she had come to England.


“And I guess I'm thinking too much about myself too.” She laughed at Nicolette's comment. “Me? You are the one who enchanted the greatest of them all, or at least that's how it looked at the sleigh race. And I failed miserably with Lord Ogle that day. My flirtatious banter fell on deaf ears.” A casual shrug. “Maybe he's just dull.” Leaning a bit closer to her friend, she whispered: “Or he prefers other men. Whatever. To hell with him. There are other far more intriguing gentlemen at court that I have not yet met. You must know quite a lot of them and have probably charmed them all.”


She forgot all about her trouble walking on snow as she listened to Nicolette speak about John Burgoyne. He sounded a bit too mild for her taste, but sometimes the gentle ones could be the most romantic and quite amazing in bed. He had apparently been inspired by the thought of swimming naked. Was that so unusual here? Almost everybody did it in Barbados. It was often too hot for clothes and a refreshing dip in the ocean could bring relief from the torrid weather.


“I'll be happy to come along.” She hoped he didn't expect them to take off their clothes and swim naked in that nasty river. Maybe he just wanted to envision it while in their company. Anne-Elisabeth grinned. “If he wanted you to lie naked by a fire, I doubt you would invite me to join you. It would be much warmer though.”


The door to St. Mark's Hall loomed before them. “Oh! We're here already. Well, that went well. I wasn't even thinking of slipping and I made it just fine. Your first taste of coconut rum should be at full-strength and not watered down by snow. But we can fetch some later if you want to try it.”


Dropping Nicolette's hand after they stepped inside, she led her to her room. “I'll be so happy when I find larger accommodations.” she sighed. “I'm not accustomed to such small spaces. It's a good thing I'm not claustrophobic.” The Countess waved her hand toward the divan. “Have a seat and I'll bring you a glass of rum.”


Bess had been given the day off, so she had to do everything herself. The rum was stored in a locked trunk in the dressing room, along with a set of crystal glasses. Anne-Elisabeth grabbed a bottle that was half-full and the glasses, and went back into the main room. Sitting on the divan next to Nicolette, she poured the clear liquid into one of the glasses and handed it to her friend. The scent of it alone made the Countess' mouth water.


“Try it and tell me what you think,” she said, as she poured some for herself and took a deep and satisfying gulp. “So when have you planned the walk by the river?”


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

“Oh, he is a bit dense isn’t he. Still, you asked for a Duke, and he shall be one day – I did my best to match you to your wishes!”  Pairing everyone had been far harder than it may have looked.  Things like this could spark long term ramifications in the tinderbox that was court.

“I think he needs a lady to take charge of him, alas that drives interesting women like ourselves insane. Who wants a man who is without character and as limp as…” she paused, “well I dare say you are the best person to complete that sentence with flair? (Elizabeth Anne had a flair for bawdy ribes, and so Nicci did not even try to complete the sentence herself!)

There was a pleased-with-herself smile on face as Lizzy claimed she would have entranced all the best men of Whitheall. “I do what I can.” Was the faux-modest reply.  

But then on Bougoyne they chattered, “We must tease him with the subject to turn bright red. Oh but the darling, he really is rather sweet.  If only he was not only a Baron, I could fall in love with him  if he was a Duke – and would not want to share him at all!”  

“Mmm.. so shall we say tomorrow morning, I shall send him a note if that time suits you too.”

With all the distracting chatter the arrival at the doors of Saint Marks took no time at all. Nicci was pleased to hear the surprised & pleased tone in her friends voice. “There, it just goes to prove that if you ignore those thing you do not like, they simply vanish away.”  A simplistic, yet now proven, logic

And Inside

“Full strength it is!” Nicci let Lizzy’s hand go, and the girls rushed with happy feet up the stairs to her room.  

“There are benefits to being in Saint Marks too.”  Nicolette spoke as she looked around the room, mentally agreeing that the room was rather tiny.   “In Paris the close one resides to the King, the greater preferment is indicated.  With that comparison you might claim you are one the English Kings favourites.”

Which had Nicci suddenly wonder if one day she would live at the palace, at least for a little while.  Having discarded her furs, Nicci settled onto the divan arranging herself in relaxed yet artfully pretty semi recline.  Yet spying her friend take a gulp amidst-serving the rum she righted herself and cried, “No fair!” laughing.  



OOC: have you had a room number appointed? I looked for your room description to c&p but did not spot it! 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anne-Elisabeth laughed. “Thanks for trying, but I would have rather raced with a stable boy than with that imbecile. Luckily his wife will have the title of Duchess to please her, because I doubt he'll be able to. Unless she's as dull as he is.”


She tilted her head to the side. “He's as limp as a dead man's cock. He's as witty as a rock and as intelligent as a potted plant.” The Countess laughed again. “I could go on and on. Still, if he can be easily controlled, he might be useful.”


Nicolette seemed happy with the compliment she had given her. “Perhaps I shall meet some of your many admirers. I promise I won't try to charm them unless you give me permission.”


So the Frenchwoman shared her opinion on the worthiness of gentlemen. The higher the title, the more attractive they were. “So he blushes easily? I can describe in vivid detail how I swam naked in Barbados and mention that I sometimes did the breaststroke. That should spark his imagination. And tomorrow morning is fine with me. I quite look forward to it.”


Nicolette's words did seem to be true. She was able to cross the snow without any problems as long as she didn't worry about it. Soon they were settled into Lady Cambray's small living space. At least it was decorated nicely. “The King's favorites probably live in the palace proper.  But that's an interesting way of looking at it."


Her expression became thoughtful. “Hmmmm, I wonder if I can so impress the King with my wit that he offers me apartments in the palace.” She glanced over at her friend. “My wit is all I want to impress him with. I am not interested in anything more.” Anne-Elisabeth thought it was important to make that plain since it was possible that Nicolette was already one of the King's mistresses. They had certainly looked cozy together at the race.


She had already handed the Frenchwoman a glass full of coconut rum. “Perhaps I was too hasty, but I couldn't help myself. It is so delicious. Give it a try.”



(OOC: Anne-Elisabeth's room number is 272.)


Link to comment
Share on other sites

“Yes that is surely the only solution.  Hmm, and perhaps why we take offense in his company so? It it almost an insult to our own intellect to be near him.  Oh dear, I do apologise darling for the awful match!” Nicci belatedly apologised in an gushy way!  “In hind sight who would you have preferred?”

The descriptor that her ribald friend used was perfectly shocking! Nicci squealed with delight at hearing it! “Oh you are so wicked! I do love it, when we are in private. You would not really say such things in company would you…?” Nicci asked (thinking she knew the answer all ready).  

“Oh you are welcome to charm them.” Nicci spoke magnanimously of the men she may have charmed. “I am not at all exclusive, and do not intent to be.”  Then upon a pause she thought to add, “Well except for Lord Ranelagh. Oh my god, that man is too adorable! It’s my plan to some day marry him, he does not know it yet but shall be delighted I do think.  Well. I hope.”

Was there anything out of the usual on Nicolette’s ambition-driven view on gentlemen? Certainly not!

“It’s the best way to look at it.” Nicci chuckled, though Elizabeth Anne’s next suggestion was not nearly so entertaining.  “You want to be his mistress.”  It was a statement. Nicci was perhaps older than Elizabeth, and understood exactly how these things worked. “A woman’s wit alone has never been rewarded with apartments linked to the Kings own.”

And Nicci, after all these months had only just come close to her own goal on that regard.  Now she suddenly wondered if she was becoming friendly with her ultimate replacement. Days, perhaps weeks. How long could she possibly hope to hold off the wonderfully matched Elizabeth? 

Her expression sobered.  Trying to be magnanimous, free and easy with gentleman (like she’d previously declared herself to be) “Well I dare say you are perfectly suited, His Majesty loves none other so well as his favourites the gang of Merry Men, and you so well suited to that company.  With sharp wit and a burlesque tongue. Forthright too. Why I saw at the ball you have already gained his attention.”  So that was why Elizabeth had hurried off with Dorset to meet the King. She was moving very fast. 

Nicci had always known that it would never last forever.  That was the very reason why she'd set her further out goal of marrying Ranelagh.  It was just that she'd imagined that might be in a year or maybe two.  But now, now she was thinking Spring would see more changes at court...

On that note, Nicci adjusted, and seeing the offered drink (she’d overlooked) took a generous sip.  There was the syrup-y sweetness of rum with a unique flavour that grew more pronounced after the swallow. Her taste buds burst into appreciation, even as the liquid burned down her throat!  “Oh this is beautiful!” she finished her drink in the second gulp.  “I shall like a second glass please, to sip.” The addition of ‘to sip’ was for politeness sake really. 

Edited by Nicolette Vauquelin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

“I asked for a Duke and you gave me the heir to one. There's no need to apologize. He was excellent at driving a sleigh and we almost won.” Lady Cambray smiled slyly. “Maybe I'm not done with him yet. I might just bump into him at a future event and ask for a few introductions. He will know other Dukes and their heirs and he's so dense that he won't even know he's being used.”


When Nicolette asked who she would have preferred, her smile turned into a mischievous grin. “Why, Lord Chatham, of course. Because he won. I don't know much about him. We met just before you announced the pairs and he gave me some tips for walking on the snow.”


The Frenchwoman's squeal was like music to Anne-Elisabeth's ears. She did love being admired for her witty comments. “It depends on the company. You should have attended the limerick competition at the ball. Some of my poems were quite shocking to some of the spectators. Here's one of them:


To start the new year with a zing,

A lady wants only one thing.

She'll give a sweet peck

To a gentleman's neck

While her quim gives his cock a good wring.”


She laughed. “I couldn't get away with spouting that verse in polite company, but the Merry Gang adored it. If my limericks had not been so bawdy, I doubt they would have accepted me into their circle on my first night at court.”


So Nicolette already knew who she wanted to marry. Maybe she was using her relationship with the King to achieve that goal. She had heard that His Majesty sometimes married his mistresses to gentlemen of their choice. “You shall have to point him out to me. I would like to see the man who has stolen your heart. But I will not flirt with him. It would be pointless, since he would not look twice at me when he is enchanted by you. He will probably be thrilled to marry you.


“And I'm not exclusive either, so feel free to flirt outrageously with any gentleman you see me with.” The Countess winked. “Who knows? If they like both of us, we can get together and compare notes afterward.”


It was easy to tell that her friend wasn't pleased with the idea of her becoming the King's mistress. She must be his lover already and is afraid that I'll take him away from her. That, of course, was not her intention and she let Nicolette finish speaking before she answered.


“No, I don't want to be his mistress, nor do I want apartments adjoining his. There are hundreds of rooms in the palace. Surely he could allot me one if he thinks I'm witty enough. Maybe it's never been done before, but there's a first time for everything.”


And this was Nicolette's first time drinking coconut rum. Anne-Elisabeth was surprised that she downed it two gulps and quickly poured more of it into her glass. “I told you it was magnificent. It's smooth but fiery as well and the taste is heavenly. I love coconuts and wish they were available here.”


She finished her own and poured herself another glass too. “Do you know why I don't want to become His Majesty's mistress? How would I know if courtiers praised my poetry because I have talent or because I'm close to the King? They would try to befriend me because I had his ear and not because they cared anything for me. I would also have to be faithful to him for the duration of our relationship, and no other gentleman would dare to flirt with me. I like variety too much to give it up. I don't even know if I can.


“I want to become renowned for my poetry and wit and be recognized at the first official female member of the Merry Gang … on my own merit and not because I'm a mistress of the King. I do want his favor, but not by sharing his bed.” Anne-Elisabeth wanted Nicolette to know that she had nothing to fear from her where the King was concerned. If he seduced her, he might be impossible to resist (most powerful men were), but there were so many ladies willing to shag him that she doubted that would ever happen.


Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nicci understood Elizabeth-Annes methods entirely, it was not really so different to how she’d used sweet Burgoyne too. It was satisfying indeed to find a friend with an equally sensible head on her shoulders “I am so pleased you have arrived.” Nicci gave a content sigh.

It should not surprise her that Elizabeth Anne was enamoured of Chatham, Nicolette had been captivated by him too until he failed to complete her dare.  How much longer would she allow him to raise to the occasion?  Maybe even to the last hour of the last day of the season!   

Elizabeth quizzed for additional information on the man.

“All I can say of him, is that it is just as well he does not have two good eyes – pray he is only half aware of how he manages to enchant the ladies, lest his ego grow to become unbearable!” Here the lass sighed.  Upon a pause, she decided to tell Elizabeth Anne all.  “A week ago I dared him a prank on Roos, and he’s still not done it.  It’s rather disappointing.” Said with a pout.

While Nicci delighted vocally in the first shock of poem, the second, the limerick, had her gasp and cover her mouth! (Eyes wide!)   

“Elizabeth!  I would have died if I had been there!  You actually said that out loud at the ball?”  Nicolette would never be able to do so, her cheeks were burning enough hearing it in this discrete locale just now.   Her friend went on to explain why she’d been so bold, the price of admission to the Merry Gang had been high.  Nicci hoped that it was worth it.

“I am rather tame in compare.” Said she.  Nicolette thought herself to exist within the greys of court, able to mix with both proper and daring company - while Elizabeth had launched herself fully into the risque, the dark.  A part of the French girl was curious to that, but she was all together too content with where he was to think of taking that other path. 

But these girls understood each other – Elizabeth instantly gleaned Nicci’s planned career path via the king.  “I shall indeed.” She promised on Ranelagh, “Though he would indeed ogle you I am certain, there is absolutely nothing exclusive about him, and really that is part of what makes him so perfect.  A  single minded man might want for the same quality in a wife.” She gave a wink.

“Though of course I should not mind at all if he did adore me, he’s truly the most adorable rake in Whitehall.”

And then Nicci had her little panic attack (though she did her best to conceal any anxiety behind a laissez-faire attitude). Elizabeth Anne explained her thinking… it made sense, though baulked against all existing paradigms.  A woman, elevated entirely upon merit.    

“Mmm… well then it will be best for you to find a suitable sponsor for that aim, but the English King would not would not grant an apartment without expecting the rest of it.  I do know that Prince Rupert has given my Lord Beverly an apartment, and he is practically puritan and would not expect that of you, but Prince Rupert is far too stuffy generally and is not likely to raise you for limericks. So that could not work.  York has many suites at his disposal, but again when it comes to women the only one with apartments there is his mistress – though like you, and she is a poet. But York himself is dull, and would hardly inspire your best work.”  

Nicci ran though the small group of men that bestowed place apartments upon their favourites.  As all others were ruled out, it came back to the King.

“The King is the only option, if that is you great aim. “ Nicci spoke quietly.  She wished there was another way. 

 The fire of hard liquor was  appreciated at this difficult moment.

“What you hope to achieve has never been done before. It will be a brand new precedent if you can attain it, the palace will practically need a new wing.”

The liquor was doing it’s work, she was calming. Sipping more on her coconut rum, she leaned back into the seat.  “Personally, I shall not object one bit if people are nice to me only on account of a lofty person whom favours me.” She took another lovely gulp.      

Edited by Nicolette Vauquelin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

“I'm glad I blocked your way at the ball,” Anne-Elisabeth said, smiling warmly. “or we might not have met this season.” She and Nicolette understood each other perfectly. In her experience, it was rare to find ladies who shared her outlook on life. She just knew that they were going to have many exciting adventures together.


The Countess wasn't actually smitten with Lord Chatham. She had only met him briefly and while he had been charming, she didn't know him well enough to form an opinion yet. He had won the race and that was why she had wanted to be paired with him. Anne-Elisabeth was a competitive creature and she would have also liked a gift of jewelry from the King. The way Nicolette described him, it was only a matter of time before he enchanted her completely. “Maybe he is just waiting for the right time. Roos is a member of the Merry Gang, is he not? What exactly did you ask him to do?” Maybe she could offer to assist him, since her scandalous limericks had ingratiated herself into that group of mischief-makers.


Repeating one of those limericks now made her new friend blush. “Of course I did,” she confirmed. “But not in the ballroom. The competition took place in one of the drawing rooms and I don't think I would have been able to defeat Dorset if my poems had been chaste and proper. I used foul language for shock value mostly. Nobody expects Countesses to curse or to use such blatant sexual innuendo. And the best limericks are naughty ones.” A nonchalant shrug. “Expletives are just words. They are only shameful if you think they are. And I don't.”


Anne-Elisabeth grinned when Nicolette said she was tame. “Then perhaps some of your good qualities will rub off on me. As well as some of your charm.” As to Ranelagh: “If he ogles me, I might ogle him back, just because I can. But I will not encourage him. And yes, you're right. That's why I am not exclusive either. I don't want to give some poor gentleman false hope that I will be his and his alone. But don't you want him to be faithful to you after you're married?”


The pretty Frenchwoman named two Princes who might help her get an apartment in the palace, but ultimately decided that the King would be her best option. “There may be another way. I was told that there are positions available for widows in the Queen's presence chamber. If I can get one, they come with rooms in the Queen's wing. It must seem strange that someone like me would want such a position, but wouldn't it be splendid to be accepted among both the libertines and the proper sorts?  “If that does work out for me, then I won't be able to sleep with the King if I want to. I would never betray my mistress. Supposedly, you can only acquire one with the sponsorship of an influential lady. You wouldn't know of any ladies who could help me, would you?”


Anne-Elisabeth took another sip of rum. “When I have been at court for a year or so, I might not object either. You have probably made a lot of friends and allies on your own, and you know that they will not abandon you if you fall out of favor with a powerful man. I don't have that luxury yet but one day I will.”


Link to comment
Share on other sites

“It seems more likely to me that he simply turned coat.” Nicci sighed. “It was at Church last week, I dared him to make Roos think I was yearning after him, so that the man would approach me and then I could snub him!  But instead Chatham seemed to befriend the entire of the Merry Gang and left the chapel in their company!   It was as though I afforded him reason to get to know them all, and my reward was to be dismissed from his mind forever more!”

Nicci thought she had ample reason to hold a grudge, and had been very generous up till now to say noting of it.

“Oh well, if he is my only failure this season I can still call the season a success.” These words were her own effort to cheer herself on the subject.

Elizabeth Anne explained more about the Limerick completion, and how nobody expected such a vocabulary from a Countess.  “That is true, it is more something that Nell would do.”  Nell was as common as they came, and played on it to amuse the merry gang (herself also).   “You would probably get along very well with Nell.” Nicci mused – perhaps I can introduce you.   For after all Nicci’ was chummy with Nell too.   

Talking of Ranelgh, Nicci smiled of the loyalty to their friendship that Elizabeth Anne promised, and then shook her head to the question she lodge.  “No I have seen enough wives unhappy that their husbands cant remain monogamous.   I would never wish that sort of unhappiness on myself!  Hmm… It is like… when it rains, you can either be glum or find the rainbows to dance in.    So, I would accept Lord Ranelaghs character is to love many and charm all – we are bound to have the most well attended parties at court for that very reason! And he will only love me more for my appreciation.”

At least that was her plan, if she ever did get to marry him.

Elizabeth Anne had set herself a mighty challenge to want an apartment at Whitehall – and then suggested one route to achieve it might be the Queen.  Nicci blinked.  “But.” She blinked again. “You shall need to disown the Merry gang if the Queen Karoline is to accept you. She is very proper, would not like the poems that you take delight in.  You would need to present yourself as reformed, and quite as puritan as she.  Why last season she even banned all the Kings and Princes Mistresses from living at the Palace!” 

“No, that would never work without robbing you of your very joy of life. There is no apartment that could be worth that. You need discover some way to do the never done before, though the King.  Perhaps the Merry Gang can assist?”

Anne-Elisabeth sipped her rum, Nicci did so also. “Well actually that is not true, I have few friends I would trust, we are at Court after all.”  Nicci knew court to be a battle field, Versailles had taught her that.  “I shall introduce you my dear friend Caroline Despanay, she is my only true lady friend before I met you.”  For even though Nicci had kept Heather as a secret mentor, the lady herself was barely aware that Nicci even existed.  “The three of us may now make a wonderful set.”  

Edited by Nicolette Vauquelin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

“It would be impossible for him to forget you. Maybe he couldn't bear the thought of Roos making a pass at you. Or he could still be working on it. He wasn't in the drawing room with the rest of the Merry Gang at the ball. I would have noticed him. He might still be trying to gain their trust.” The prank Nicolette had set for Lord Chatham wasn't something that Anne-Elisabeth could help him with. Deceiving the Merry Gang so soon after being accepted among them was not a wise idea.


The Countess had heard of Nell Gwyn, who had risen from nothing to become one of the King's favorites. She supposedly preferred to flaunt her commonness rather than embrace the noble lifestyle. Anne-Elisabeth admired her for that. Like her, Nell preferred to stand out rather than fit in. Nicolette had apparently charmed her too and the former actress did sound like the kind of woman who would get along well with Lady Cambray. At the very least, they could try to out-curse each other. “I would love to meet her. I've heard a lot about her.”


Mademoiselle Vauquelin's views on marriage were the same as her own. Arthur had died too soon for her to know what kind of husband he would be. He had seemed devoted to her, but that could have changed if he had brought her to court. As an Earl, and quite a handsome one, ladies would have fallen at this feet, and everyone knew that most gentlemen thought with their cocks and not with their brains. “My thoughts exactly. If I ever marry again, I will not expect my husband to be true to me either, but he must allow me to take lovers too. Do you expect that as well, or do you intend to remain faithful to him?” It sounded to her as if Nicolette adored the mysterious Lord Ranelagh. Perhaps she wanted no other man but him.


Her friend raised some valid concerns about obtaining a position with the Queen. Mistress Wellsley had made it sound appealing and had told her she thought that she would fit in well. Maybe they needed a lively lady to spice things up. However, Anne-Elisabeth had no intention of renouncing her current lifestyle or giving up her friendship with the Merry Gang. “You're probably right. But what if I can teach Her Majesty to lighten up and have some fun? If the ladies in her presence chamber are boring, I could brighten things up. Not all of my poems are bawdy, but I find it more difficult to compose chaste ones. Maybe it's not the path for me, but I do want to visit and see how everything works.” She smiled mischievously. “Perhaps you would like to come with me?”


An apartment at the palace was not all important to the young Countess. She planned on renting or buying a house before the next season began, but it would be nice to have a room to go to when she 'entertained' gentlemen (or ladies) during court events. She chuckled at Nicolette's suggestion that she get the Merry Gang involved. “They would probably want me to sleep with them for their assistance, but it can't hurt to mention my wishes in their presence.” Dorset could be of help. If she had apartments in the palace, they could shag in an actual bed. He was close to the King, so he might be her best bet. “I still think if I continue to impress His Majesty with my wit, he might offer me one himself. I am certainly going to try.”


Though she was young, Anne-Elisabeth was smart enough to know that few people at court could be trusted. She grinned when Nicolette claimed she was one of only two ladies who were true friends to her. The Countess had two as well … Nicolette and Davina. She believed that neither of them would desert her if she took up with a powerful man who later rejected her. “But you must have made quite a few acquaintances that appreciate you for yourself and not because of a gentleman's interest in you. I know so few people now. I need to widen my circle before I accept a gentleman's favor.”


She closed her eyes and savored her next sip of rum. “I would love to meet Lady Despanay. If she's anything like you, I'm sure we will get along well. And together, the three of us will be the envy of every lady at court!"


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Elizabeth Anne made valid points, though both individually believed Chatham put priority on his new  Merry Gang association.  “Mmm… there was another dare too, with the candles….” Nicci was undecided, Lord Chatham seemed too fun a sort to hold a grudge against.  “Low long do you think dares remain valid?  Maybe I’ll give him until next season.  And then - that’s it.”  Made with the appropriate hand gesture.

“She’s been keeping a low profile at court for some reason lately.” Nicci explained (had Nell attended the Ball?  Nicci had not seen her. “As soon as I see her next I shall introduce you both for certain!” 

“Well… I hardly know yet.” The girls agreed about most things about their possible future marriages, which was possibly why Nicci dared to reveal a romantic aspect.  “It would be nice to fall so much in love that any thoughts of others were banished.  My cousins are like that, I am completely certain that Lisa has never been attracted to any other man but Louis.  That must be a lovely feeling. “  she paused upon the thought, then gave a shrug.  “But it is not at all common, and only a foolish girl would place that as her goal.”

Nicci was too practical, aspired for things she knew she had a chance of attaining.

 “Teach Queen Karoline?” Nicci chuckled, “well you can try!” it was plain enough that Nicci thought it impossible. “But no thankyou, I want to keep my life simpler, what is the saying about serving two masters? It shall be a difficult task to stitch the Merry Gang styles together with the Queen!”  Nicci served but one master, a man on neither extreme; namely Buckingham.

“You will wait until she has safely born the babe wont you.  You know how the recommend peaceful times and lack of stimulation during pregnancy.”  Nicci’s inner health professional advised.

Enlisting the Merry Gang’s help would have strings attatched.  Nicci tried to conceal her surprise at the frank way Elizabeth Anne considered it.  It was the blatant and very English way, with not of the coquette-itry of French count.  Nicci felt suddenly pleased that her own path was guided by Buckingham.  For while a series of sudden shags might be effective, it was not sympathetic to her own nature – that said it had been very drawn out.  Elizabeth’s approach was likely to bear fruits far quicker!

Speaking of close friends, Anne Elizabeth quizzed if there were any that liked her simply for who she was.  With a blink of eyes Nici smiled. “Oh yes, there is the Marchioness of Worcester.  She is a botanist, well practically.  She was appreciative of my own adoration of herbal lore.  She lent me her very valuable collection of books called the ‘Theatrum Botanicum’.  And I am to go to Badminton to stay with her at seasons end. I am looking forward that that.”  Yes her friendship with Mary was quite different to any other she had at court.

Yet to fun friendships with other young ladies, “Perhaps our company of ladies will rival that of the Merry Gang. I am crossing my fingers that Ladies Lismire and O’Roarke will return next spring, then what a troupe we could form!” her eyes grew distant with the imagining, “Lady O’Roarke is so daring and brave, while Lady Lismire is the personification of stylishness! Almost too elegant even, like I should want to mess her hair a little – though I would never dare!” she laughed.     

Edited by Nicolette Vauquelin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anne-Elisabeth shrugged. “I guess dares last as long as you want them to. You could tell him that he has until spring the next time you see him. Then maybe he will speed up his efforts. What did you ask him to do with the candles?”


Though the two ladies were alike in many ways, Nicolette was the more romantic of the two. The Countess didn't believe in love, but if it did exist, it looked as if the Frenchwoman's cousins had found it, or at least something resembling it.


“Those couples who fall in love with each other are fortunate, indeed. Maybe that's what will happen with Lord Ranelagh and yourself. Perhaps he will no longer be attracted to other ladies and you will not look at another man. But you are right. It is a very rare thing, and one should not expect it.” She winked impishly. “Besides, wouldn't committing yourself to one lover get boring after awhile? You know what they say: variety is the spice of life.”


Anne-Elisabeth finished off her rum and poured herself another, raising a dark eyebrow in Nicolette's direction, wondering if she too, needed a refill. “It is just one idea of many. I only arrived at court a couple of days ago. I need to keep all my options open for now. Opportunities sometimes appear in the strangest of places.”


Her eyebrow rose higher. “The rumors are true then? Her Majesty is pregnant? I would never think of shocking her, whether or not she is with child. Outrageous behavior is what the Merry Gang expects, but I would have to charm the Queen.” She smiled warmly. “Since you are so good at enchanting ladies and gentlemen alike, maybe you can give me a few pointers.”


Nicolette did have quite a few acquaintances already. “It would be fun for a group of ladies to compete with the Merry Gang. And see? You've made friends without relying on a gentleman's favor, which is what I must do as well. I look forward to meeting Lady O'Roarke and Lady Lismire ... and other ladies like the two of us.


“So you have an interest in herbs? Do you use them for anything in particular?” Anne-Elisabeth didn't know a lot about them, but she did know that they could be used to season food, to make tea, to treat and cure illnesses, in beauty treatments, to make one's home smell fragrant, and for many other purposes.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Talking of Chatham and dares, Eliabeth Anne’s question about candles sent Nicci’s to laugh “A lady doesn’t tell the finer details of a gents wick, save to say he’s left me currently unsatisfied!”  Which was more entertaining than the truth of the dare.

Talking of love, Nicci agreed fully. “To be exclusive seems to me most unkind to all those unmet gentlemen in our futures who might be so happy with moments of our adoration.  I could never be so selfish.” 

With Elizabeth Anne’s suggestion (by way of risen eyebrow) Nicci polished off her drink and passed her glass for more.  “Quite so.  I can say for myself that the plans I made in my first week or two at court have for the most part been forgotten as I discovered even greater delights to pursue.  One need ever keep eyes open to what is about us.” 

She paused following that thought then asked, “I expect that Lord Roos has quite forgotten about his proposition and the shock it gave me. Perhaps like an old goal I should forget and move on past it too.” She mused in a thoughtful tone.  “Do you think I should come to befriend your merry gang too?”

“There has not been any announcement yet, but… well if she was not pregnant I’d have thought we would see her at events like the New Years Sleigh race don’t you think? And, if you watch her, she has a look about her.  I am next to certain that she is with child.”

“Oh I don’t think I have anything to teach you, other than to be considerate. But you are that already I think.” Nicolette replied on how to charm.  “There is little doubt that some will take offences, but those sorts are likely to take offense at anyone no matter what you do.  And besides, it is a tedious sort of person who pleases just everyone.  I think to upset a percentage of people is just proof that you are interesting and even memorable.” 

Of Ladies Lismire and O’Rourke Nicci did not mention the power play that might take place if those dynamic ladies did return to court… but that would only be a further and very interesting court dynamic.

“I have an apothecary in town named The Golden Pestle.” The French Belle revealed roots she’d put down in London, “we have medicinal for all manner of applications, all those endorsed by the College of Royal Physicians,” dropping her voice she added, “and some few others too. Hmm…. such as a herbal to prevent an inconvenience?  Confinement would be such a bore.” The offer was there.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anne-Elisabeth chuckled. “Then I shall ask no more. Maybe I will find out one day how large his wick is and how long it burns.”


She nodded at Nicolette's views on monogamy. “I agree. It would be cruel of us to deprive deserving gentlemen of our affection when they will so obviously crave it. And we would be missing out on the benefits of those future relationships. Who knows where they might lead?” Another laugh. “Just not to an alter, I hope.”


The Countess poured more of the fruity rum into the Frenchwoman's glass. She was slowly beginning to feel its effects and would need to make sure that she didn't drink too much. When she was drunk, her amorous tendencies were more difficult to deny and Nicolette was so pretty. She might not appreciate a kiss  from another woman, and Anne-Elisabeth didn't want to scare her away.


“Exactly. I am just entertaining ideas at this point. I am hoping that other doors will open for me as well, just inviting me to step inside and enjoy the wonders they offer.” She grinned wickedly “Or if I see one I like that doesn't open, I will simply break it down.”


As to Roos: “He probably has. I think the Merry Gang propositions every lady they speak to. Two of them made passes at me tonight … at the same time ... but I doubt they will remember tomorrow. And if you would like to befriend them, I will bring you with me to any event they invite me to. The two of us together will not fail to impress them.”


Anne-Elisabeth savored another long sip of coconut rum. “I wouldn't know if missing the sleigh race is unusual for Her Majesty. I know very little about her. If she is pregnant, though, she will not be able to hide it forever. I don't know why she would want to, unless she doesn't want to get everyone's hopes up in case she loses it.”


The Countess had never thought of herself as considerate. Nor had anyone else described her that way. Arrogance was usually the main trait attributed to her. Maybe she was changing. One couldn't be too callous if one expected to become popular at court, and that was Anne-Elisabeth's ultimate goal. “Some people are just disagreeable by nature. And I have heard it said that one's worth is not counted by the number of one's friends but by the numbers of one's enemies.”


A noblewoman with her own business? She had not known that such a thing was possible, but she was definitely intrigued by Nicolette's offer. “Do these herbs cause cramps and nausea? The concoction I take now is quite nasty and I would like to try something gentler but just as effective.”


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Laughing Nicci agreed, “Oh yes you must ask him that, I dare you!” There, now Elizabeth had to do it!

Chuckling still, they formed a consensus of a sort on the lack of benefits to monogamy.  The French girl raised her glass in a sort of toast to Anne-Elizabeth’s pledge.   Nicolette’s tolerance of alcohol was quite as high as Caroline’s, she definitely enjoyed a drop or two or three, and soon enough pressed here glass forwards for a third refill.  Smiling with her newest dear friends liquid indulgence… Nicolette felt indulgent in return.

Chuckling of Elizabeth-Anne’s go-getter attitude, Nicci then thought to ask, “Apart from poetry what sorts of things interest you?”

Then they got on to talking about the Merry Gang, and the Countess made and offer.  Nicolette was tentatively interested, “I would like try one of their events at least, to see what it is like. Though I would hope that it is not all propositions, I would be very bored of them quickly if that is all they have. What else about them is interesting Anne-Elizabeth?” after the briefest pause she added, “And tell me what I may call you, for your full blown name is far too formal for dear friends! Perhaps I shall call you Lizzy, or Annie, or have you some other nickname used?”

“That is the exact reason.” Of the queens secrecy around a possible pregnancy Nicci replied, “the last queen of England had so many failed pregnancies, why I remember a rumour at Versailles that King Charels entire country wanted him to annul his barren & catholic wife – but that he refused.” the conversation continued...

“Well that is as silly a saying as I have ever heard.” Nicci replied plainly, “For myself I want admirers far and wide, with just enough rivals to make life interesting. There is naught so much fun and satisfying as winning a battle of wits with worthy rival.”  But perhaps that was just her French-ness showing – Versailles valued espirit more than any other court in the world.

Of herbs Nicolette nodded, “I am afraid that is the nature of that bred of herbals, though perhaps a adjusting your particular blend could help, or adding some ginger might help. Do you know what you have been taking?”   

Link to comment
Share on other sites

“I won't ask him.” Anne-Elisabeth smirked mischievously. “I'll get him to show me. It will be much more fun.”


More experienced in courtly ways, Nicolette asked what else she liked to do besides compose limericks. She had always relied on her poetic skill, but she did have other interests that might appeal to courtiers who could help her rise at court.“I am absolutely intrigued by astronomy. I've studied a lot about it and I'm saving money to buy myself a telescope.” Leaning toward her friend, she whispered: “Though I really hope that some infatuated gentleman will buy one for me.”


She leaned back again. “I like to play board games and I'm pretty good at chess and backgammon. I also love to ride my horse and challenge my companions to impromptu races. I already told you about swimming. And I enjoy exploring new places. Once it's warmer, I plan to discover all that London has to offer. “I'm also interested in increasing my wealth by making wise investments, and I hope to find some good prospects and proposals once I get to know more people. And of course, I like to try new things and will attempt anything once.”


As to the Merry Gang: “No, it's not all propositions with them. They were playing various games at the ball while Dorset was holding his limerick competition. I don't know them well yet, but they seem to like making mischief and I imagine they throw fabulous parties. I doubt that you will ever become bored in their company.”


She considered Nicolette's next question. “My parents called me Alissa, so you can use that name if you'd like. Please don't call me Annie or Lizzy. Those nicknames are far too common. Alissa is unusual and hopefully memorable. And what would you prefer that I call you?”


Anne-Elisabeth nodded when Nicolette spoke of the rumor that the King had planned to set aside his barren wife. “We heard that in Barbados as well. I wonder if there was any truth in it, and if he will be coerced again if the current Queen can't give him a living child. I'm happy that I was not born royal. Their lives are far too complicated and they get no privacy at all.”


More rum slid smoothly down the Countess' throat. “Oh, I completely agree. I want to be admired by everyone everywhere. At the moment, I'm too new to afford enemies, but after I've been here a few seasons, I believe that other ladies will be jealous of me. It will be quite satisfying to put them in their place.”


So it seemed that if she wanted to avoid pregnancy, she would have to deal with pain and nausea. “I'm not sure what it is made of, but I have some with me if you'd like to take a bit of it with you to analyze. I need a new supplier anyway and I would much rather it be somebody I trust than someone I don't know.”


Link to comment
Share on other sites

“Ooo you are wicked – I love it!” Nicci giggled with Anne Elizabeth’s daring reply, “you must promise to tell me exactly how the conversation goes! I have little doubt that you shall set him a fire!” 

“How interesting.” Nicci had never heard of a lady being seriously interested in astronomy. Many a woman claimed to want to go star gazing, it was but an excuse to promp romance.  Nicci herself had an evening with Douglas planned for stargazing – but her thoughts (and surely his!) were of earthly delights.

“I dare say they are very expensive.” It was a sensible plan to have admirers buy telescope (the same method that this Frenchling had come into possession of so many furs).

“But you must manage some way of meeting gentlemen in the Royal Society then.” Nicci suggested in case her friend had not heard of that pool of English intellect.  “I have heard their library is extensive, and their quest for more learning unfettered.  Why should you gain a patron amidst their ranks you might even be allowed to attend one of their meetings.  I heard such a thing has happened once before.” One Margret Cavandish, the wife of the late Duke of Newcastle have been indulged.

Anne Elizabeth spoke on more. “Your interests seem quite complimentary to the rest of the Cavandishes in fact.  They are renown for the best stables in England, and their gentlemen folk are indulgent of education in their women.” She mused out aloud.  In the same way that Louis had provided her with details and background to Court, she paid it forward for her friend to use if she wished.

As to the Merry Gang: “Then yes please, I would love an invite.” Assured that it was not all sex with the Merry Gang, Nicci gave a firm yes.  What was the worst that could happen, most of court knew Nicolette Vauquelin had the Duke of Buckingham’s protection.

Granted use of her families pet name for her, Nicci was very pleased – and gave a squeeze to the others hand! “Alissa is a beautiful name!  And yes you must call me Nicci. My cousin could not get his tongue around calling me Nicolette and asked for a nick name within minutes of first meeting!” she laughed “and now just all of my English friends call me Nicci – why probably even my enemies call me that too!”

Nicci nodded with Anne-Elizabeth’s comments upon royals. “Oh yes, most especially the lack of privacy, why if she does carry to term she will have to give birth with an audience.  How awful would that be. Though I quite understand the necessity, many witnesses to the birth of an heir is especially important when the father is a King.”

 “Oh but tell me more about this place Barbados - apart from delicious rum what else kept you entertained?”

Nicci gave a wistful sigh upon the talk of witty rivals. “I sooo miss my dear rival Mistress Madeline Gerard, we had such fun together. Why she was near my side at just every court event, we were quite inseparable!”  They had invigorated each others spirits with a very healthy spirit of competition between the two.  “Why I would say that a good measure of ones worth is the quality of ones rivals.”  Madeline had been very witty, & Nicci had taken that as a compliment.

“Then yes, I shall give the sample to the apprentice, oh but he’d just past the exam, I need get used to calling him a journeyman now. Perhaps a little more ginger in the blend will help you..” possibly the current brew did not have any ginger at all.  Nicolette would work with Paul upon this and soon enough would have some alternatives ready for her friend.

With a smile Nicci focussed upon the young countess,  “Alissa Alissa…” she gave a happy laugh, “Oh do not mind me I am settling your name to my lips. Alissa, is is so pretty, makes me think of flowers, those lovely tiny fairy flowers alyssum, so dainty yet remarkably strong.”  


Edited by Nicolette Vauquelin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

“Don't worry. I'll tell you all about it.” Anne-Elisabeth needed to get to know him a bit better first, and the season would be ending soon. So far, she had only spoken a few words to the striking one-eyed Earl. “I hope I'll run into him before recess, but if not, our paths will surely cross next spring.”


Telescopes were quite expensive, but not out of reach now that she had access to her late husband's money. She could buy one, but her mother-in-law, the old harpy, would complain. It was better to charm a gentleman into purchasing one for her. And there wasn't anywhere to set it up in her small but cheerfully decorated room. One of the features she was going to look for in a house was a perfect place to view the stars, both from inside and outside. A second- or third-story room with a large window was an absolute must. As was a spacious garden.


“The Royal Society? They are scientists? I, too, am interested in intellectual pursuits, but one can only learn so much on one's own. My paltry knowledge of astronomy would probably make them laugh, yet if I could find a patron, he could teach me more. And ladies are invited to their meetings? Do you know which gentlemen are members? I would love to meet them, as well as these Cavendishes you speak of. Are they easily approachable or do you need to be introduced to them by somebody they know?”


The Countess grinned impishly. “I will take you with me to the first event I hear of or that I am invited to. They won't know what hit them when they see the two of us together. Our wit is more than a match for theirs.” Nicolette might not be talented at poetry, but she had a clever mind and a way with words. The Merry Gang appreciated such things.


Anne-Elisabeth tried to ignore the way her hand tingled when her friend squeezed it. “Nicci,” she said., her eyes narrowing mischievously, “there are a quite a few words that rhyme with Nicci, some of them a bit suggestive. Don't let Dorset know your nickname or you might regret it. If he does make a naughty limerick about you, I will oppose him with a nice one for you and a wicked one for him.”


She wrinkled her nose. “I think that's one of the worse parts of being royal. I've heard childbirth is very painful and nobody wants people standing around and watching them suffer. But the Queen knew what she was getting into when she married a King. She was probably prepared for it from an early age.”


Barbados. Lady Cambray could talk forever about the beautiful island she had grown up on. Thinking about it made her homesick sometimes. Going back was possible, but it wouldn't be a smart move. Court had much more to offer her and she had only begun to discover its wonders.


“It's a lovely place. I could entertain myself simply by sitting on the beach and watching the waves roll along the shore. The sky is so blue and the sea is the most gorgeous turquoise that you can imagine. The sun is bright and warm and I even miss the fishy, salty smell of the air. Coconuts are only one of the delicious fruits that grow there. There are mangoes, papayas, bananas, guavas, passion fruit, and so many others. The pomegranate is unusual because you eat the seeds and not the flesh. And the carambola is shaped like a star.


“I grew up on a sugar plantation. There wasn't all that much to do there, but my family held parties and we attended balls on other plantations. The English community is tiny compared to London and almost everybody knows everybody else. We do face dangers though. Pirates are always a threat and there are creatures in the wild that can kill you. The natives have their own culture, and they taught me some of their dances. I also sampled their food. It's tasty, though very hot.” Anne-Elisabeth sighed wistfully. “But that life is behind me now.”


She nodded as Nicci spoke of rivals. “I had a few in Barbadoes that I actually miss. Matching wits with other ladies keeps us on our toes.”


The Frenchwoman did seem to like her nickname. “Does allysum grow here? If so, I hope you will point them out to me. I may know them by sight but not by name. Now that you know my interests, tell me about yours. What do you like to do when you're not enchanting gentlemen and studying herbs?”


Link to comment
Share on other sites

And so the subject of Charles Audley was set aside for now, the girls speaking of the Royal society next.  “You surely must meet Newton of course, he is practically a legend.”  If Anne Elizabeth ws seriously interested in the stars, he was the ultimate resource. 

“No ladies are not invited to their meetings, it is exclusively men.  But I knew that one lady did attend once, her topic was botany. I expect she had something worthy of sharing.   Perhaps you can hope to gain that status one day too?  Imagine to be recognised for such a feat.” 

Nicci was in her own way academic, though herbal lore was highly unlikely to ever warrant a Royal Society audience.  She was more one to learn from the pool of existing knowledge, rather than forge brand new learnings.    

“But upon the Cavandishes themselves, I could introduce you to Lady Lucas, she is related them by marriage and could in turn properly interduce you to the Ducal family.” Nicci had hesitated in offering, but her dislike of Cordelia was a lesser thing in compare to her affection for her new friend.    

And so it was settled, Nicci was to be a plus 1 at a Merry Gang event! “And if they get out of hand, two fans to swat cocks is better than one.” Nicci tried out free and easy use of that word, and then burst into laughter at herself. “It sounds so wrong from my lips!” it did not feel like herself at all. “to swat pego s perhaps.” While meaning the same thing, was less provocatively bawdy, thus more her.

Blinking Nicci was confused. “… what rhymes with Nicci then?” her mind had completely blanked.  

It seemed a very sensible thing to discuss in advance though, and Nicolette was so grateful to her friend for thinking to do it! “So shall I make them call me Nicolette, or Mistress Vauquelin? Or then again my title of Lady of Misrule still applies till season end, though they likely wont have a party before then.   Which do you think is the safest to use?!”

“Oh but would you really?” Anne Elisabeth promised to defend her if it came to a poetic duel, and Nicci was grateful of that.   She was a bit nervous of the forecast party -- it was playing with the big boys.  Keeping hold of her hand Nicci uttered a sincere “Thankyou.”

And so Anne Elizabeth told her about Barbados. “It sounds so beautiful…” Nicci tipped her head, trying to match the lady she knew with this lady who liked serene and nature.  It was a very different side revealed.   Nicolette understood the talk of a tiny town better, where everyone knew everyone, and no ones business was private. Gossip spread faster than a fancy Guttenberg press could expedite.  

“So, before your magnificent court debut you were a barefoot nature girl.  It is such a different thing, I can hardly imagine.  The unsteady of your feet on the ice is the least of your learning.”  Nicci appreciated just how sharp and clever her new friend was, “and now here you are airborne, like a skipping stone across the pool of court -  well done my dear friend!” 

“Oh yes, I shall show you Alyssym next spring.” Nicci promised warmly, before Alissa turned the question of interests back upon herself.  “Ha! Well I love plant lore, the use of them as medicine.  I also enjoy collecting samples to press for my compendium, since being in England I’ve managed to fill in many blanks that I was unable to fill in Paris.  I am also interested in curiosities…” Nicci paused and then admitted, “for instance I recently purchased a shrunken head!”

Nicolette had not intended to tell anyone about that purchase - but too late now, she had. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Only one lady had been invited to a meeting of the Royal Society, and her field of expertise had been one that was not forbidden to women in general. Gardening was a hobby that many ladies enjoyed. Anne-Elisabeth was fairly good at it herself, or at least she had been in Barbados. Flowers might be more difficult to grow in a colder climate. She would try, though, as soon as she had a garden.


Astronomy, though, was in the realm of men. She didn't think they would take her seriously unless she discovered a new star. That was possible, she supposed, once she had a telescope. She had bought several maps of the stars over the years. Maybe this Newton fellow that Nicolette spoke of would agree mentor if she could impress him with her knowledge of the subject. During recess, she would spend more time star-gazing and writing down notes about what she saw.


“It would be marvelous, but I think I have a long way to go before that occurs.” A nonchalant shrug. “But who knows? Anything can happen at court.” Perhaps Dorset could help her become acquainted with the Royal Society. He didn't seem like the type of gentleman who would be part of, but he knew everyone and was influential enough that they would listen to him. Or maybe he did have a scientific mind. The Countess knew very little about him.


“Lady Lucas from the sleigh race? We exchanged a few words after she and Lord Chatham won, but I would love a formal introduction. I don't think she was pleased that I hit her with a snowball, though she was polite and didn't seem to hold a grudge against me.”


Anne-Elisabeth chuckled when her friend tried out the word 'cock' and decided she didn't like the sound of it. “Use whatever word feels comfortable to you. Otherwise, they sound forced. However, if you want shock people by cursing, practice when you're at home until it becomes natural to you. Though, to be honest, I don't think a foul mouth would suit you.


“What rhymes with Nicci? Dicky, quickie, hickey. Dorset would be able to compose a limerick with those three alone. Less offensive words are picky, sticky, and tricky, but they could also be used in naughty ways. Those are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are several others. It's probably best to tell them to call you 'Mistress Vauquelin.' They call me 'Lady Cambray.'


“And, of course, I will defend you in verse.” She gave Nicci's hand a reassuring squeeze. “In fact, I shall start writing some tonight so they will be ready when they're needed.” She would also compose a limerick or two about Dorset and the rest of the Merry Gang, just in case she was called upon to insult them on the spur of the moment.


She left out all the problems that came with living among only a small group of nobles. She thought that Nicci wouldn't understand, coming straight from the lavish court of Versailles to London (or so she believed), and the Countess preferred to focus on the positive. Gossip had, indeed, ran rampant there. A few people, mostly ladies, had been ruined by gossip which may or may not have been true,  and had been shunned by the rest of society. Anne-Elisabeth had learned how to keep a low profile at an early age.


“Hmmmm,” she contemplated, tilting her head sideways. “I guess I was a bit of a nature girl in Barbados. I felt a bit out of my depth last year when I lived at my late husband's country home and attended parties at other estates. But I learned quickly. Court, though, is completely different and utterly thrilling.”


She grinned at Nicci's compliment. ““Well, so far I've only had two triumphs … the limerick contest at the ball and the poem I composed for the sleigh race. Most courtiers still don't know that I exist. But that will change. You are the one who shines, and even the King can see your shimmering radiance.”


Her friend seemed mostly interested in plants. Perhaps she would be able to help her pick out flowers to grow in her garden. At the mention of a shrunken head, Anne-Elisabeth's golden brown eyes widened. "Oooh," she breathed, curiosity coloring  her sultry voice. “That's amazing! Will you show it to me?  And what prompted you to buy it?”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<< “Anything can happen at court”>>

“As long as you persist.” Nicolette agreed.    

“La, but it was a game of snowballs, she surely cant hold a grudge at you for that.” Very pleased to hear that Anne Elizabeth already had an introduction to Cordelia, Nici encouraged her on. “She resides right here in the Saint Marks, why you could easily arrange to bump into her in the halls. Perhaps give her some token then, if you think an apology for the snowball is needed, but really. She should get over it.” Nicci wished she could retract the last comment, it betrayed her true feeling about the crone.  But there it was said - Nicci gave a shrug.

“I would prefer to practise other things!” Nicci admitted then.  Her eyes widened with surprise when her new friend so quickly teamed rhymes of her name that were naughty and daring.  “Heavens, I sound quite a libertine!” Which was strangely fascinating to her ears.  “But yes, I shall take your advice.”

Though it was not much of a stretch to that if the men really wanted, they could rhyme sir names into risqué words too! 

She flashed a grin hearing how her friend planned to spend her evening, it sounded quite fun, although did not personally appeal to Nicolette. Though becoming dear friends, their interests were quite different.

“Oh, where was your husbands home?’ Nicolette realised she did not know!  It sounded like that had been Anne Elizabeth’s training ground for courtly wit, and given the style… “Oh but let me guess, it is in England, or Scotland possibly? No, England, surely.  Not near Cornwall certainly,” for that made Nicci think of Langdon’s unsportingness, “nor near Bristol.” And there, the genteel likes of Lady Worchester.  “Perhaps north – perhaps York?” she asked!

“But Alissa - you have been here only days! Let yourself have a chance!” Nicci laughed, her friends unexpected modesty hardly suited her!  

The shrunken head drew the exact reaction Nicolette had hoped for. Anne Elizabeth was amazed.  “It was just so fascinating. I saw it some while ago, and then kept thinking about it, so that when I returned to the shop and it was still there – I just had to have it!” Nicci explained in a gush, “It is such an awful and incredible thing. I have wondered how could scull bones ever be shrunk, or then I wondered… do you think they took the scull bones out first? How horribly ghastly. Isn’t it marvellous?”  


OOC: since we’ve got out walk thread on the go now, shall we wind this one up soon?

Edited by Nicolette Vauquelin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

“Of course I will. Once I have a goal in mind, I never give up. My ultimate aim is no different than any other courtier's … I wish for power and favor and influence. I've not yet been here long enough to figure out how to get it, but I will find a way.”


Lady Lucas resided at St. Marks too? It wouldn't be difficult to find out what room she was in and knock on her door to borrow something or ask for advice. Perhaps she could say that a gentleman was being too persistent and she didn't know how to turn him away when they lived in a public place. “I will not apologize,” Anne Elisabeth said. “She knew what she was getting into when she chose to race.” The Countess rarely missed a thing and could tell that Nicci wasn't fond of the older woman. “You don't like her, do you?”


There were plenty of words that rhymed with the last syllables of Nicolette and Vauquelin, but Anne-Elisabeth didn't mention those, not wanting her friend to worry about the kinds of limericks that could be composed about her. She doubted that any would be, as Nicci wouldn't be able to fight back in verse. “Maybe you are a libertine at heart,” she suggested. “If you don't feel awkward at the Merry Gang's parties, then you most likely are. Not all libertines advertise it the way I do.”


Nicci tried to guess where her late husband's estate was located. “Seabrooke is in Cornwall, on the coast of St. Ives Bay. It is quite beautiful there. You must visit me someday. I may be staying in London this recess, as I need to find a house, but maybe after next season.”


The French girl was right. Lady Cambray was expecting too much too soon. “Very true, I shall have more time to dazzle next season and will still be able to play the mysterious newcomer card, at least for awhile. So far, it has worked well for me. Maybe I will be able to do something at the auction tomorrow that will get me noticed.”


She listened avidly as Nicolette described the shrunken head she had purchased. “If the skull was removed, then how would it hold its shape? There must be some way to shrink the whole thing. I wonder who figured out how to do it and why they even wanted to shrink heads in the first place. Just pondering such things is both horrifying and fascinating. Do you know where it came from?”


Picking up the bottle of coconut rum, Anne-Elisabeth realized that it was empty. “Look,” she said, holding it up. “We drank the whole thing!”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Well, technically, she did not choose to race." Nicci as Mistress of Misrule had orchestrated that, Cordelia had been plucked out of the gallery into a sleigh!

"I thought we were to get along famously, we enjoyed teas, and went shopping together in the first season I attended.  But then the next season  there seemed a change in her, I do not know if I had done anything, but she has been cool to me since then." It may well have been after the pivotal day in the Gardens when Nicci and Sophia had competed for the King kiss.  Much had changed then. 

"If you do see her, perhaps, you shall find out from me what it was that happened?" Nicolette thought to ask.

“Yes there are probably different types.” Nicolette agreed, finishing yet another glass of the coconut rum. It was so very moreish, an empty glass just demand a refill!  

“It Is in cornwall!” Nicolette laughed discoring her guesses wrong, “Well you are nothing at all like the Cornish Lord Langdon!  There must be different types of Cornish people also.”  Saying so seemed awfully funny, but then they had drunk quite a bit by this stage.

She laughed too to hear that Anne Elizabeth contemplated some daring thing at the Batchleor auction. Nicci had decided not to attend, upon account of the hopes and plans that she would be exclusive in a manner. 

“Maybie with a sock?” Nicci guessed, making a mental note to see if it looked like a sock was stuffed inside the head for shape. “Well the shopkeeper has some story of course, but you cant believe any of that. He would have customers think that The Princes of Europe and beyond discard treasures daily on his doorstep.  No, he had a tale, but naught to prove it.

… they conjectured further to what the real story might have been.

“Oh my!” Nicci was surprised, and disappointed too for she’d not quite had enough.  “Have we been talking so long, what is the time?” She stood, and discovered herself a tad unsteady on her feet. It was just lucky that she had a ridiculously high toleration, or she’d have needed to be carried home!

“So sorry I drank you out of house and home.” She expressed, “I do hope you have another bottle for tomorrow though?” Nicci moved to squeeze her new dearest friens hands, and thinking to splash air kisses again about her cheeks bumped a bit of this and that.  Laughter ensued. “I had better head home while I still can!”


Edited by Nicolette Vauquelin
Link to comment
Share on other sites


  • Create New...