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Logical thinking and clothes - April 1, after lunch [open]

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Norrington's Place
     Known as the foremost authority in Fashion in London, Norrington's Place stands proudly in the midst of the Strand, its white, ornate stone edifice declaring prosperity and newness. Large wooden double doors are flanked on both sides by bay windows displaying fabrics in this season's colours, lacework and fashion plates with the latest creations from Paris.
     Inside, rolls of fabrics adorn the walls on either side, grouped in complimentary colours, with a discreet door leading off to a small, comfortable chamber where ladies can be measured or have garments altered. A massive fireplace dominated the centre of the main room, in front of which sat a low table and two dainty sofas, where patrons could look at samples and other accoutrements, look more closely at the latest plates, or simply have a gossip and a pot of tea with the renowned dressmaker, whose clients supposedly include a royal mistress or two - for, despite her propensity to gossip, Elvira never names names.

     Lunch had been an interesting affair but, trained as he was to notice even minute details, Henry noticed that his clothes, even though appropriate for his station, seemed to be of a style that was not in fashion anymore. He had always striven for practicality, not looks, but that practicality seemed to be out of place in current London courtly circles.

     So, he did what his logical mind told him to do. He strolled to the Strand and directed his steps to the first clothing store he saw. The bay windows showed fabrics of totally different colours than those he was used to wear, and the lacework was definitely of very high quality. The scholar did find it a little unexpected that the fashion plates only showed creations for ladies, though, and wondered why would that be.

     Gentemen’s clothing must be simpler, and thus cheaper, in comparison, the baron thought, and thus they advertise the more expensive items. Totally logical thinking to him. Besides, men look for comfort and ease of use, not looks. Yes, that must be it!

     As he crossed the double doors, the lord felt the welcome warmth of a fire, smiled, and waited for someone to approach him. Yes, this must be the place I need.

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All of the shop girls seemed to be busy with customers. Anne-Elisabeth sighed impatiently. I should have expected this on the first day of the season, she thought. Some courtiers probably waited to have their wardrobes made until they saw what was currently in fashion, and others needed alterations, or repairs like herself. Bess walked behind her, carrying an emerald green dress over her arm that had been torn in the gardens behind her house. The Countess could have discarded it, but it was one of her favorites and if the tear could be mended and cleverly covered by trims, she would like to wear it again, even if it was only around the house.


She was still wearing the same gown she had worn in the palace that morning, and her burgundy cloak had been pulled back to reveal the sapphire silk gown printed all over with red and yellow flowers and green leaves. The neckline and open skirt were decorated with gold braid with a red ribbon running through the center. Her sleeves were twice puffed and ruffled at the hem and her underskirt was of plain saffron silk. She wore her raven hair in an updo held together with pins that had red, blue, or yellow fabric flowers affixed to the ends. Three ringlets were left loose to cascade over one shoulder. A golden necklace with a heart-shaped ruby pendant encircled her neck and small ruby earrings sparkled in her ears. She wore three golden rings on one hand, one with a sapphire in the center, one of filigree, and one in the shape of a tiger's head.


Well, I might as well look at the trims while I wait. Her gaze swept the room looking for where they were kept and her eyes lit upon a gentleman standing by the door who looked a bit lost. He must be new to court, she guessed. He was in the same position she had been in last season, and he probably didn't know many people yet.


Deciding to introduce herself, she walked toward him. “It looks like we're going to have a long wait, my lord. I am Anne-Elisabeth Devereux, the Countess of Cambray.”

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Henry had been looking at fabrics from afar, not daring to get close, much less to touch them. To him, the sartorial world was a mystery better left to those who were privy to its arcane secrets. Natural philosophy is easy compared to this…

Without thinking, the baron had gotten closer to where the trims were displayed. The river pearls, ribbons, laces and other such drew a puzzled look from him. What is all this? Are all these… things… supposed to go on my clothing? If so, where? His brow furrowed, trying to solve the puzzle.

It was then that a young lady approached him and introduced herself. She did not look like she was twenty yet and was shorter than him by a few inches. Perhaps on the thin side, but carried herself with great elegance, and her clothing and jewellery punctuated the fact that the baron’s was not up to the standards of court. She was definitely a lady of quality.

Cambrai? A French Comtesse? Henry bowed formally. “Henry, Lord Grey. A distinct pleasure to meet your acquaintance”. His family was old. If she was French, she would not know, but if she was English, she probably would recognize the name. “And yes, it sadly seems we will have to wait, Lady Cambrai”. He pronounced the name the French way, fishing for a reaction.

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Anne-Elisabeth held up her hand to be kissed. “I am delighted to meet you as well, Lord Grey.” His surname meant nothing to her, although she was just as English as he was. There were no Greys among the small community of English nobility on Barbados and if they had been mentioned during her year in the country, she had long since forgotten.


Lord Grey was not handsome but he was far from homely and seemed quite amenable. Rather short and a bit stocky, but with lovely auburn hair. Why do men always have the best hair? The Countess was not fond of periwigs, except for pulling them off for fun, and often wondered why gentlemen felt compelled to wear them. She found them rather itchy herself.


Anne-Elisabeth also didn't notice that his clothing was outdated. By the time the latest fashion plates arrived in Barbados, the styles in England had already changed. She'd had her new wardrobe constructed by a dressmaker who stayed abreast of the latest styles because she had better things to do than follow fashion trends.


He pronounced her name in the French form, which was understandable since her last name was French too. “Cambray,” she corrected. “My late husband's family is from Cornwall, though they probably have French ancestry. As for me, I grew up on Barbados. And  I suppose if we have to wait, it's better to do so in good company than alone.


“Have you been in London long, Lord Grey? I only arrived two days before the New Year myself.”


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Had Henry known the lady was musing about his hair, he probably would have turned beet red and started stuttering. Thankfully, he was spared the revelation. As Anne-Elizabeth offered her hand, he kissed it with elegance.

“Cambray”, the baron accepted the correction. “And my deepest sympathies for your loss”. He felt a bit uncomfortable at the revelation. “There are beautiful places in the Cornwall coastline", he added changing the subject. "They are also far from large cities, which makes them even more enchanting”. For an astronomer, definitely, due to the absence of city lights. For social creatures, perhaps not as much. “Barbados, you say?” Unknown places always piqued his interest. “What is Barbados like, I wonder? What are the moon and stars like there?” His scientific side tended to always come through.

“I am honoured that you consider me good company, my lady. As for me, I could not ask for better company than yourself”.

At her mentioning she was also relatively new to court, the Grey scion relaxed notably, and allowed himself a small but genuine smile. “I am as new to London as can be, in a sense, as I arrived last night a bit after midnight. But in my case, Lady Cambray, it is a return. I spent five years studying at Westminster as a youth, before I went to Cambridge. Stern they were with me, I must confess, but my classics would not be what they are without my tutors there”.

For a moment, his eyes lost focus as his mind flew to fond and not so fond memories almost three decades in the past. “But now I am the new Baron Grey, and I have been summoned to Parliament, come to take the Oath and take my seat on the 5th, next week. After that, only God knows”.

A question came to mind. “Pray, tell me, what was the end of the year like in London?”

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What Lord Grey lacked in the appearance department was more than made up for by his gallantry. Looks were overrated anyway, in her opinion. Anne-Elisabeth's hand tingled pleasantly as his lips brushed over it. She almost waved it dismissively when he gave her his condolences, but she thought better of it and instead dropped it to her side. “Thank you, my lord. We had only been married a few months when he was snatched away from me and in truth, I hardly knew him. I often wonder what might have been.” No, I don't. I make a much better widow than a wife. However, she didn't know this gentleman well enough to reveal that she was relieved that her husband was dead.


“That's where my estate is, on the coast of St. Ives Bay. It is indeed gorgeous there, and reminds me a bit of home. I don't think I would be comfortable living very far from the ocean. It's always been a part of my life.” Her eyes widened when he asked about the moon and stars in Barbados. Could he be interested in astronomy too? “They seem much clearer in the tropical sky. It's quite easy to pick out the constellations and sometimes when I went outside to study them, I thought I could see distinct markings on the moon. I begged my father for a telescope but he thought my interest was only fleeting. It wasn't.  I'm more intrigued now than I was as a child, and I bought a telescope this recess. My house has a large window that is perfect for observing the sky, and on warmer nights, I have it set up outside.”


Anne-Elisabeth smiled at his compliment. “Then perhaps our wait will be long and enjoyable.” So he was a scholar, possibly a scientist. As she wished to move in scientific circles herself, he was definitely a good person to become acquainted with. “I'm sorry for your loss as well.” If this gentleman was the new Baron Grey, then his father or older brother must have recently passed away. “Are you looking forward to becoming involved in politics? I find it a fascinating subject myself and am trying to find out more about the way it works at court.”


As to the New Year: “There was a ball on New Year's Eve. It was marvelous, though unfortunately, it ended shortly after midnight. There were sled races on New Years Day which I participated in. After that, it was mostly quiet as courtiers got ready to leave. I do hope there are a lot of fun activities planned for this season. Is their anything in particular that you're hoping for?”


Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux
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Henry was relieved that Anne-Elisabeth changed the subject. Dead relatives were not something he particularly wanted to dwell on. “A telescope?” His pitch and volume went up a tad. “The Fates must have decided to bring us together, Lady Cambray. How do I best describe my heart in words…” his brow furrowed for a few moments before he continued, “my adult life has been dedicated to lenses and mirrors and their application in astronomical telescopes, and my life’s dream is to make an accurate map of the moon”. That was as succinct a way to put it.

Whether God or the Fates had allowed them to meet, it was a remarkable occurrence, that was for sure.

“A question”, he continued, “is your telescope a refractive or a reflective one?” Just in case she was not used to such terms, he added: “in other words, is it long and thin, and you look through one end, or is it short and thick, and you look into it from the side?” Newton’s telescope was a reflective one, but not many people had one such. “A house with enough space to set a telescope in. You are lucky! I am afraid I have no such luxury at the Red Lion Inn. I will need a good place to set up a laboratory, and a place away from lights to gaze at the skies. It will require some time, I guess”.

With a tightening of the lips and a friendly nod, the baron accepted her condolences. “Yes, my lady. I have decided that, as a peer, I have the moral obligation to get involved in the world of politics. Of course, If I can entice it to help the world of science, so much the better”. He paused. He had to slow himself down, as the subject of astronomy had excited him quite a bit.

The topic of New Year’s Ball and the sled race had been forgotten. Here is a lady that might love the stars as much as I love the moon. The wait has suddenly become a secondary issue; we are talking about night skies!

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Lord Grey seemed both surprised and pleased that she was interested in astronomy, and he became much more fascinating to her when he explained his own interest in the nighttime sky. “That's a very lofty goal,” she told him, referring to his dream to map the moon, “but certainly not impossible. You'll need a much more powerful telescope than mine to do that. Are you making your own?”


Long and thin or short and thick. If anyone's listening in, they probably think we're talking about something else. Many courtiers were quick to pick up on innuendo, generally because their minds were permanently in the gutter. “It's long and thin. In fact, it takes up most of my parlor. I'm not sure how accurate it is, but you can take a look if you'd like. You are welcome to set up yours in my parlor or in my garden until you find a place of your own.”


Her journey into astronomy was just beginning. Perhaps he could help her improve her knowledge on the subject. Books could only do so much. “I wish you success,” she said about his political aspirations. “Science is not taken as seriously as it should be, and there is so much about the world … and the heavens … that we still do not know.”


The Countess paused before continuing. If he didn't agree with her next statement, she could lose the opportunity to learn from him. However, if that was the case, he wouldn't be willing to teach her at all. “I also think that ladies should be encouraged to study science. I'm definitely not the only one who is intrigued by it.”


Anne Elisabeth smiled up at him. “I have a dream too, Lord Grey. I wish to discover a new constellation that has never been identified before.”


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     “It will probably take a lifetime”, Henry agreed regarding his dream. “But I think it is a worthy goal. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake, yes, and not necessarily useful, but art can fall in the same category, don’t you think?” Buckingham had measured him right. There was a romantic heart attached to his learned mind.

     “I have a telescope or, more precisely, I have had several. But I always take them apart, measure them, experiment with them, add or remove a piece or two, and try to put them together again. That is how I learned how they work". He smirked. “To tell you the truth, I have no idea if I brought my last acquisition to London, nor do I know if it is in working condition”. How could a scientist own a scientific instrument without taking it apart and trying to improve on it? At the very least he repolished the lenses. But most of the time it was an exercise in rebuilding almost everything, an exercise that was not always successful.

     “So, you have a refraction telescope”, the baron said without knowledge of the countess’ thoughts. Had he had even the slightest idea, he would have turned a very dark shade of red and would have stuttered for at least an hour, eyes glued to the floor. “I would love to take a look!” He eagerly replied at the offering, “and will definitely take mine, if it is in London, that is. Mine is of the short and thick variety, built on the general design of Isaac Newton’s refracting apparatus. The man is a true genius!”

     It was obvious that Lord Grey thought very highly of Sir Isaac. “Which reminds me that I have to meet him as soon as practicable, as I have an idea I need his help with…”

     Then Anne-Elizabeth landed a very unorthodox point. “Hmm…” Henry’s brow furrowed for a moment. “Although I have nothing against anyone studying science, Lady Cambray, I humbly advise that you are careful where and in front of whom you voice that idea. It could bring with it no end of sorrow if you are not careful…” There was a moment of silence that the baron used to collect his thoughts and make a decision. “Yet…” he was still uncertain. “Yet… I have heard a rumour that His Royal Majesty’s Merry Gang appreciates a keen intellect, whether male or female, whether in verse, play, song, or science. Perhaps that would be something worth investigating?"

     "I would gladly share the little I know, though, if you want", he continued. "Who knows? A good collection of recent star maps, a custom-built telescope, a place away from the lights of the city, and tonnes of patience might see you achieve your dream, my lady".

     And if she is of the proper persuasion, there goes my reputation at court, a reputation I cannot afford to lose if I want to find a proper wife to continue the line of the Codnor Greys.

Edited by Henry Grey
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“All knowledge is useful,” Anne-Elisabeth declared. “I'm sure many people would like to know what is on the moon. If you are the first man to make a map of it, you will be celebrated for it, though I know that is not why you're doing it. Unlike artists and performers, scientists do not covet fame, but wish to make the world a better place through their discoveries and inventions. But there is an aspect of art in science. The sky is beautiful at night and more captivating than any painting or sculpture I've ever seen.”


The raven-haired Countess had never thought of taking her telescope apart and then putting it back together. Some of the gentlemen she had known enjoyed similar interests so maybe it was a trait ingrained in the male psyche. As long as her telescope worked, she was content. However, if Lord Grey was adept in improving them, he might be able to enhance hers. It was most likely a cheaper model, but it allowed her to see the stars more clearly than she'd ever seen them before.


“Have you ever tried to build one yourself?” she asked him. So hers was a refraction telescope, whatever that meant. He did seem quite eager to take her up on her offer. “I am free most evenings.  Just let me know what date in convenient for you.” So his telescope was the other kind, which meant hers was the inferior variety. “I would love to look through yours as well, if you brought it and it's in working condition.”


One eyebrow rose when he mentioned Sir Isaac Newton. “You know him?” she asked impressed. She would like to meet him as well, but she knew better than to ask for an introduction, given most scientists' opinion on women in their field. “How fascinating. Do you think he can help you to better observe the moon?”


Lord Grey hesitated before responding to her comment about ladies and science. Would he be affronted and take his leave of her now, shocked that she would even suggest such a thing?  Anne-Elisabeth let out the breath she hadn't known she had been holding when he said he wasn't against it and warned her to be careful about who she revealed her interest to.


Then he fell silent and she wondered if he was regretting his words. No, he was trying to help, suggesting that the Merry Gang might be willing to accept a woman's passion for science. None of those fellows seemed like the serious sort to her, but she didn't know any of them well. “I am already acquainted with them. They were the first people I met when I made my debut at the New Year's Ball. I beat one of them in a limerick competition. I'm not just an aspiring scientist, but an aspiring poet and playwright as well.”


Her dark eyes lit up when he offered to teach her what he knew of the heavens. “That would be wonderful. I will appreciate anything you can teach me.  Everything I have learned so far comes from books, which are the only places I've ever seen maps of the stars. I would love to have a copy of the most recent map, but I have no idea how to go about acquiring it. My gender works against me in such endeavors.”


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     “All knowledge is important”, he half-agreed, “and thus it should be both respected, and enjoyed”. He did not know how a map of the moon could be useful, but the countess considered it a worthy pursuit. Well, perhaps she could help me… I am not sure what the Royal Society would think about crediting a lady, even one of standing, if the task is ever finished, but I think she would enjoy the journey.

     “I have often considered painting a dark, starry sky”, Henry confided. “I do not have great artistic aptitude, but your words give me hope that perhaps I would make an adequate job of it”. Perhaps I should find a tutor, and London should have them in quantity, being the city she is.

     “As for telescopes”, the baron continued, “Yes, I have tried to build my own, several times, with different degrees of success. I am in continual pursuit of improvement, though, so my telescopes will probably be eternally half assembled”, he said with a smile. “As for Sir Isaac, I have known him for some time now and, without his influence, I would not have continued my studies”. It was true. Henry would have quit his masters if Newton had not motivated him forward. “So, in a very real sense, he has already helped me. But I am certain he will do so in the future too”.

     An idea occurred to him.

     “Perhaps I could ask Sir Isaac to join us when I call on you? I am sure we both can learn much from him”. Lord Grey’s admiration for the man was sincere. Newton was a scientific giant in his eyes, one he was honoured to know.

     Then the topic changed to the Merry Gang. “His Grace Buckingham was the Chancellor of Cambridge. He appointed me to a Fellowship at Trinity College during his tenure. I think he would look on your thirst for learning with favourable eyes. So would His Majesty, I think. I have heard that he keeps many instruments and mechanical devices in his closet. Others might not be as enlightened, but if the two of them accept your pursuits, the others shall follow suit, I guess. You might have to earn their respect, but you do not seem to be someone who would shy from such a challenge”.

     An eyebrow rose, and the tone was one of both surprise and newly found respect. “You beat one of the Merry Gang at a limerick competition? May I ask who it was? Lady Chambray, your wit must be remarkable! Something tells me I will learn from you far more than what you will learn from me”.

     Her acquaintance is worth cultivating. Perhaps even her friendship, if one develops. Here is a lady who may have more natural ability than I, even when her sex conspires against her. On a whim, he bowed again.

     “I am in the presence of a polymath”, he said seriously, “and I bow to greatness, both present and future”. This last had a hint of mirth.

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“Exactly,” Anne-Elisabeth remarked. Lord Grey seemed encouraged enough by her words to attempt a map of the sky himself. “If you wish to try, I would love to help. I have no skill at painting whatsoever, but if we make the charts, we might be able to hire an artist to make them presentable.” She would even be willing to let him take all the credit, for nothing she tried scientifically would be taken seriously. Not only was her gender a hindrance, but she was only eighteen years old. Those few women who had made a mark on the scientific world had probably been much older.


If he made his own telescopes, then he could probably improve upon hers, but she said nothing about it now. If it was woefully inadequate, then he might volunteer to enhance it after he looked through it. She truly had no idea how good it was, and the lover who had given it to her most likely knew that. It was far from useless, but maybe it was not ideal for discovering new constellations.


So Lord Grey was not just a casual acquaintance of Sir Isaac's but a good friend who had encouraged him in his studies. He must have amazing potential for such a famed scientist to take interest in him, she thought. I am glad I decided to speak to him, and that I chose this afternoon to have my gown repaired. The dark-haired Countess now hoped that the shop attendants would be busy for several hours, giving them time to get to know each other better.


She barely stopped her mouth from falling open when he suggested inviting Newton to join him when he visited her. Her bright grin would tell him how delighted she was at the idea. “That would be wonderful!” she exclaimed, “If he is opposed to women in science, I promise to keep my mouth shut and learn silently from your conversations with him while playing the perfect and proper hostess.” Perfect? No problem. Proper? Well, I can try ...


Lord Grey had also impressed the Duke of Buckingham? He was full of marvelous surprises! Anne-Elisabeth knew that both His Grace and His Majesty were interested in the way things worked, but not that they were tolerant of women who shared their fascination with science. Maybe that was why Master May had mentioned the King's love of learning at the bachelor auction. He was giving her suggestions on how to appeal to him.


“I revel in challenges,” she informed him. “I shall see what I can do to gain their attention. I'm nearly as new to court life as you are, so it will take some time. Yet nothing is impossible.” Perhaps she and the intriguing Baron could rise in popularity and prestige together, helping each other to succeed.


“The Earl of Dorset,” she revealed when he asked which member of the Merry Gang she had defeated in verse. “The King of Limericks himself. Now I suppose I'm the Queen, at least temporarily. He'll demand a rematch eventually and I might not fare so well then, so I will enjoy my reign while I can. He gave me use of his personal box in his theatre as my prize. Do you like plays? I can think of nobody I would rather accompany me.”


She laughed at his praise, secretly enjoying it. “Thank you, my lord, but you are far more extraordinary than I. A gentleman who has impressed both Lord Buckingham and Sir Isaac Newton is certainly my superior in greatness and potential.”


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     “There is a stunning work made by Frederik de Wit in the year 1670, a beautiful work that is illustrated with mythical creatures and hand coloured in vibrant hues. Besides the constellations, it also shows solar orbits and lunar phases. A great work of art, to be sure”. It was. “If you could purchase a copy, it would be worth it, whatever the cost”. Henry shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Standing for so long was making him tired. “But I think something simpler, with thin dotted lines joining the stars of each constellation, would serve us best for what you want to do. Otherwise, the art will distract us from our purpose”.

     The baron had not meant making a star chart. Rather, to make landscape or cityscape paintings in which the stars were correctly placed, not haphazardly splashed white or pale blue dots. But the lady’s enthusiasm for star charts made him not want to correct her. A new star chart? Why not!

     Her grin when he suggested that Newton joined them made his whole day. A lady as much in love with science as I am! This needs to be celebrated. “I do not know what he thinks about women and science, but a question here and there always appeals to a man’s ego, I’ve found, so silence is not necessary, I think. Still, I suggest caution. We want an ally, and we don’t want him to run away. Let’s be cautious until we know what his position is”.

     Anne-Elizabeth then changed the subject to the Merry Gang again. “I am certain a beautiful lady will have no trouble navigating the rocky and turbulent waters that they are”, he said gallantly, “and I bet you are more than up to the challenge”. It was then Henry’s jaw the one that had trouble to stay in place. “You won a limerick competition against Rochester… I mean… Lord Dorset?” Both eyebrows were raised in appreciation and respect. “You are the Queen of Limericks indeed!” Then an offer to join the young lady to the theatre. “I would be honoured, Lady Cambray. I am partial to opera, but plays make me stop thinking about science, at least for a moment, and are thus enjoyable. Besides, I would be the envy of every male attending!”

     Me having great potential? I am not sure. She would have far more than I had not the Fates treated her cruelly by giving her such aptitudes, but also creating her a woman. Henry was far more liberal in his thinking regarding women than most men of his time, at least in the fields of arts and sciences. But he also knew the constraints that society placed upon the fairer sex, and in a sense pitied the lady. It was unfair but inevitable that even if she attained what she wanted, she would not receive the recognition she would then deserve, and that a man would readily receive, probably for far less.

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“I have not seen that one.” The map Lord Grey described sounded impressive and unusual. “I will look into obtaining a copy if they're not too expensive. Do you have one yourself?”


Anne-Elisabeth nodded. “Yes, something less distracting would be better if the objective is to discover a new constellation. I always wanted to try making a map of the sky myself, but I need guidance. Often the ones I find in books are so small it's difficult to make out the details. Or they just have pictures of the constellations by themselves, with no indication on where they are actually located. I would love to help you create one.”


He didn't seem to think that Sir Isaac would be shocked if she asked a few questions. The hard part would be getting him to agree to go to a lady's house to observe the sky. Maybe he could help her with her telescope as well. Anne-Elisabeth liked the way the Baron said 'we' instead of 'I' or 'you.' They had only just met and already they were collaborating together. “Yes, of course. If you feel he is open to the idea, you can bring me into the conversation, although I may ask a few harmless questions that doesn't make my knowledge or interest plain. Do you think he will come? Perhaps we can start with dinner. My cook is quite marvelous and can prepare English fare and the Barbadian dishes I grew up with.”


Lady Cambray had already been accepted in the Merry Gang's circle, but as a wit and not a scientist. She would have to be as careful with them as she planned to be with Newton. Does Dorset have any scientific leanings? With his influence, he could be nearly as helpful as the King, and perhaps bring me to his attention or to Lord Buckingham's. Anne-Elisabeth had not met the Duke yet and had no idea what kind of man he was. Maybe I'll ask Nicci. She knows everybody and they all love her.


“Rochester was the one I composed the winning limerick about. Dorset and i were challenging each other by naming the subject for the other's next poem and he asked me to compose one that insulted Rochester. He liked it enough to declare me the victor.” She leaned toward Henry conspiratorially. “I often wonder if he did it because he was afraid I would give him a topic that he couldn't make a verse about.”


She grinned. “Then it's a date. I'll have to ask him what kind of show is being performed there. I assume it will be a play, but I heard that an opera was performed around the beginning of last season, one that nobles took part in and that was commissioned by the King himself. I have no idea whether I will enjoy opera or not. I have never seen one. That form of entertainment has not yet made it to Barbados.”


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“I wish I had had the opportunity to purchase a copy of de Wit’s map. Alas, I have had a copy in my hand, but the owner would not part with it for any sum of money”. Henry chuckled, “the old fool was not as much of a fool as he led others to think!” The man had been quite the shrew. “If you come to see one for sale, and decide not to buy it, please let me know. Even better, purchase it on the spot, and then sell it to me, at a premium if you want. Unless it is so expensive that it would be foolish to buy it. If so, perhaps we could buy it in partnership. I do not think it would lose value as time passes”.

Small maps were a problem indeed, almost as big a problem as imprecise maps. “The first step towards making a good star map is to buy a ream of large sheets of paper, the largest that can be found. I know it would be a hefty investment, so perhaps half a ream would be enough…” his eyes lost focus, which meant that his mind was racing, “… and a score of the best pencils available. There needs to be a large space to work in, of course, so that the paper can be affixed to a table and the unused sheets can be kept dry and free of rats, and not moved except for copying into another sheet. A good telescope has to be as close as possible to the table, so that smaller papers can be easily moved from one spot to the other”. His eyes gleamed at the thought of a precise star chart. “Then you have to consider that the star chart depends on the place where it is drawn, and the season of the year. You can see stars in Barbados that you cannot see here, for example”.

“As for Sir Isaac, a good dinner might soften him up, yes. Let me talk to him and see what can be done”. Not much sense to talk about further possibilities before talking to the baronet. “Perhaps a patronage of some sort would help, as a patroness would be in her right to inquire how her funds are being used, no?” A crazy idea, but it just might work.

Rochester was famed as the sharpest wit of the Merry Gang. Even the baron had heard of A Satyr Against Reason and Mankind. But Dorset was a close second, if rumours were to be believed, and better loved. “It was good that your match was against Lord Dorset and not against Lord Rochester. From what I understand, the former has much better temperament than the latter. From what I hear, my lord Rochester would not have been as generous in defeat”.

"To enjoy your company, Lady Cambray, is enough. I do not much care if it is a play, an opera, or another form of entertainment".

Time was passing, and they were not tended to. Perhaps the countess can help me find what I need. Changing the subject, Lord Grey asked a question: “My lady, would you happen to know where in this establishment is the gentleman’s clothing section? I am afraid that I find myself out of my element, and I find my wardrobe inadequate for the court season…”

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“They are that rare?” Anne-Elisabeth asked, her eyes wide. Either there were few copies made, or most of them were still in the Netherlands. She didn't know any Dutch people yet, but if they were plentiful there, she could make a killing if she could find a way to import them. “I will make some discreet inquiries. I can't exactly ask for one openly but I can say my husband, father, or brother is searching for one. If you find one first and it's too expensive, I'll make the same offer as you did and pay half the price.” She liked the idea of a partnership with Lord Grey. He was a very interesting gentleman.


“Perhaps a printer has the paper we'll need, and good pencils can be purchased at any shop that sells art supplies.” She assumed there was at least one of those in London; sketching was a popular hobby among the nobility and the common people. I'm not using all the rooms in my house so one could be used for storage. The largest table I have is the one in the dining room, but I suppose it could be moved to the parlor.” She sighed. “It would probably be better to find another place. If I move the dining table to the parlor, I won't be able to throw dinner parties or invite other ladies for tea.”


The Countess nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, I've noticed that the stars are different here than they are in Barbados. I'm becoming familiar with the constellations all over again.” She almost mentioned that she'd had a map of the Barbadian sky that had been drawn by a local artist, but she didn't want to think about everything … and particularly everybody … that she'd lost in the shipwreck. That was a story for another day, after she knew the Baron a bit better.


As for pretending to be a prospective patroness: “That's a brilliant idea and he might be more inclined to come if he thinks I'll donate a considerable sum to the research of astronomy. And I just might, once I make some successful investments. By becoming a patroness, I wouldn't have to hide my fascination with science and it's a way I can contribute to it despite my gender.” Unfortunately, Lady Cambray wasn't wealthier than the average noble, not yet anyway.


“Rochester was too drunk to participate in the limerick contest.” Anne-Elisabeth chuckled. “While it was going on, he was trying to kiss his own backside. I think someone dared him to do it. In fact, that's what I composed the verse about. He wasn't angry at my insult either, for he propositioned me after the competition was over. I turned him down, of course.” But I didn't turn down Dorset ...


His compliment enchanted her. It was at times like this that she wished she could blush. “I feel the same way,” she concurred. “Even if the show is dreadfully boring, I will not even notice with you at my side.” I wonder what he would be like in bed.


Lord Grey brought her attention back to the reason he had come to Norrington's in the first place. “I've never been here before, but we should be able to find it together, if there is one. A lot of the fabrics seem suitable for both ladies and gentlemen.” She waved one hand towards some bolts of lace. “Except perhaps for those.” Walking further into the shop, she queried: “So you're here for a new wardrobe? I'm not good with styles, but I can help you pick out some colors that will look good on you.  Do you have a favorite?"


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     “I am not sure how rare they are. It is more that, to me at least, they are more art than science, and thus have not paid them the attention that perhaps I should have”. One can never have too many star maps, whatever their style. My bad. “You could always say it is a gift for a… friend…” Henry hesitated at using the last word. Would the young lady find him too forward? He hoped not, as he had enjoyed her company very much up to that point. “I will keep an eye for the map, you can count on that”. And for others I might encounter…

     The baron assented. “A printer would either have the paper or know where to get it. A small fee might see him procuring it for us, so we don’t have to go to a mill”. A paper mill did not feel like a proper place for a lady of quality to visit. Their conversation continued, confirming the need to find laboratory space. Perhaps Newton can give me a few leads. As for the stars being different depending on location, Lord Grey added, “that is why a good star map takes so long to make. Stars change with location and season. Your working routine must account for those two factors”.

     The patroness idea seemed not to be possible at that time. “Newton is a polymath, not only an astronomer. He is a man from whom may things can be learned”. It was true. The trick was for Newton to want to share his knowledge. The topic then changed to a very different sort of man. “I have never met lord Rochester. He is considered a wastrel, but also a genius. There is a danger that comes from having a privileged mind. You can become too jaded too quickly, without the softening touch of time and experience. I fear the earl may have fallen into that pit, a pit from which it is not easy to get out of”. A sobering thought for when I see myself in the mirror next. “Yet, I would love to meet the man and his circle. Genius is to be admired, in any and all of its forms”.

     Henry was not a libertine, not by a long shot. But he found the genius displayed by Buckingham, Dorset, Rochester, and the rest of the Merry Gang fascinating. He did not share their amoral views, but he did not condemn them either. To a scientist, different did not mean evil, it meant fascinating and worth of study.

     “Kissing one’s own backside may be physiologically impossible, unless you have lengthy and very specific training from a very early age…” for a moment, Henry’s eyes lost focus, as he contemplated what would be needed to accomplish the feat. “A grown man would not be able to”, he finalized. “And no, I am not willing to try!” He said with a grin. “I might come out of the attempt in far worse shape than before”.

     At her returned compliment, Henry smiled and nodded. A delightful young lady, I must say.

     They started walking deeper into the store, looking for the gentlemen’s section. “Yes, I am in desperate need of renovating my wardrobe. In Cambridge, preference in clothes is totally different than here in London, I’ve found. When doing an experiment, I seek clothes that protect from strong chemicals and are not set in fire easily. At court I surmise those are not important considerations…” Anne-Elizabeth then asked about colours. “Back in Codnor Castle I have used earthy greens, browns, and greys, as they are very practical colours that do not stain easily. But from what I have observed, those are not the hues of court, so I am open to suggestions…” The baron was indeed at a loss. If he had been told by a reliable source that he should dress in pink chintz with plum accents, he would have probably acquiesced. Natural Philosophy was his thing. The trappings of court, f which fashion was in the forefront, were not.

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Anne-Elisabeth smiled warmly at his suggestion. “Then I don't have to lie at all, since you would like to have one too.” Did he already think of them as friends? She did. The Countess was not prone to inviting strangers to dine with her or accompany her to the theatre. And she doubted that he offered to introduce mere acquaintances … particularly women … to a famous scientist he admired. They shared the same passion; to her, that made them kindred spirits.


“Perhaps we can share the fee as well.” Lord Grey said nothing to her musings about rearranging her furnishings to the point that she would no longer be able to entertain, but he had already spoken of finding a place suitable for his research. She had actually agreed with him in a roundabout way. “I wish I had one from Barbados. Then we could compare the constellations there to the ones here. The view of the moon in the Caribbean is probably different as well. Do you plan on traveling the world while you're mapping it so that you can study it from many diverse places?”


He gave her some good advice. She would have to try to make a map this spring, and then another in the summer, autumn, and winter. And perhaps a few from her estate in St. Ives as well. It was definitely going to be a time-consuming project.


“I've heard that Newton is knowledgeable on a wide variety of subjects, not just science. Our dinner conversation should be quite entertaining, assuming he decides to join us.” Anne-Elisabeth didn't consider Rochester to be a genius. Smart people didn't try to kiss their own arses. That he was an accomplished poet and wit, there was no doubt. All members of the Merry Gang were exceedingly intelligent, even if they preferred mischief and mayhem over scholarly pursuits. “Lord Dorset told me that I would be invited to their next party. You can come with me, if you'd like, and I'll introduce you to all of them.”


As to arse-kissing: “I don't know if he succeeded, but he injured himself trying. He didn't hurt himself too badly, for he recovered sufficiently to proposition me less than a half-hour later. “Lady Cambray chuckled. “I would never ask you to do such a thing.” She grinned impishly. “And like I told Lord Rochester, it's much more satisfying to get somebody else to kiss your backside for you.”


Anne-Elisabeth was better at composing limericks than putting together outfits, but she did have an eye for color. “No, there are not many chemicals and fires at court. Fashion was outdated in Barbados before it ever got to us, and the most important consideration there was to keep cool. I was woefully out of style when I arrived in England, but I found an excellent dressmaker. You should look into the services of a tailor if you want to stay on the very top of fashion.”


She frowned at his color preferences. “Boooorriiing. I don't think pastels would suit you, but deeper hues would look splendid on you.” Spotting a display of deep muted colors, she strode over to it. “This aubergine color is perfect for you.” She held out the edge of the fabric for his perusal. “Maybe a justacorps and breeches made out of that, and a waistcoat out of this lovely teal.” The bolt she referred to stood next to the aubergine one. “And maybe for variety, another waistcoat made out of burnished gold. What do you think?”


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     “No, you would not have to lie”, Henry encouraged her. Interestingly, the shyness the baron displayed around women was totally absent. The reason was, perhaps, that he felt he was talking to a fellow astronomer. “I would like to travel after I complete my first map here, probably at Royal Greenwich”. It was the best place to start, he thought. Not far from his duties, and it had a good telescope already in place. “It might take some time before I can travel, though”. He was so new at his position as baron that he had no idea how much of his time it would consume. “As for fees, please allow me to be a gentleman, and take care of them”.

     Lord Grey was about to make a comment on his friend Newton when Lady Cambray offered to take him to a party of the Merry Gang. For a moment, even astronomy was forgotten. “I would be honoured to go with you, my lady. Only thing I ask is that it is after the coming session of Lords. I need to prepare for that, including a small speech, and something tells me a night with the Merry Gang would not allow my brain to function well for at least a day or two afterwards”. Henry could hold his liquor as well as the average man of his time, but hangovers treated him badly. It would not do to take his seat at Lords in such a sorry state. “But it could be a celebration of sorts afterwards!” He had an almost scientific curiosity as to what those events were like.

     For a moment, Lord Grey was at a loss of words. What would she not ask? That I kiss my own arse, or that I kiss hers? A puzzled look. Then her next comment made things clearer and more obscure at the same time. Is she hinting at me kissing her back side, or was it a declaration that Dorset would or did? Court matters and manners were so different than what his father had instilled in him. Greys ought to be proper at all times!

     He was about to say something totally foolish, when the baron was saved by Anne-Elizabeth changed the topic to colours. Not something he knew much about, but at least it was less… embarrassing. “Aubergine, you say?” Henry took a closer look. The fabric was luxurious, that was true. And the teal looked very good beside it, now that his attention was drawn to the colour combination. The mention of gold made him hesitate, though. “Perhaps something close to gold but non-metallic? My father used to drill into us that metals were for earls and above, and that barons that wore them were presumptuous above their station”. Rules in the Grey household were many and repeated often. “What about a colour that is close, like a muted dark yellow or a yellowish taupe? It could have metallic thread, even some pearls, but I would not be comfortable beyond that”.

     The baron then remembered the lady mentioning a tailor. "Hmm... I wonder how does go about finding a good tailor? I am afraid I am at a total loss in that regard..."

     If that is how Merry Gang parties go, I better go with an open mind and a close mouth… and hope that those that attend do likewise! Lord Grey needed to marry a proper lady, and a libertine reputation could prevent him from doing so.

     But he sure wanted to attend at least one of the famed gatherings.

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“Hopefully your new duties won't take too much of your time,” Anne-Elisabeth sympathized. “You can always travel during recess. I should like to travel more as well. I've never been to the Continent, but I've heard a lot about it. There's so much to see and do I might not have much time to study the stars, but it would be a rewarding experience.”


She smiled when Lord Grey insisted on paying the fee for the star map. “Very well, but I'm still willing to chip in if it's unusually expensive.”


The Baron didn't seem like the libertine type to her, but maybe he wanted to broaden his horizons or find a patron among the Merry Gang. He'll probably be disappointed if he expects intellectual conversation, but who knows? He might enjoy himself. She had heard that there would be a gathering at the Duke of Buckingham's and fully intended to attend, even if she had to crash it, but she didn't know if the Merry Gang's full compliment would be there and it was tomorrow evening, a few days before Lords.


“I'll let you know when they throw their first party. My friend Mademoiselle Vauquelin will probably be coming with us. She wants to get to know them too. If you haven't met her by then, I'll introduce the two of you. She's a delightful lady. I think you'll like her.” Nicci knew how to turn on the charm and Anne-Elisabeth had no doubt that Lord Grey, like every gentleman at court, would fall under her spell.


Her comment about arse-kissing was meant to be funny, but he looked confused and didn't laugh. Surely, he didn't take her seriously. She hoped she hadn't ruined what was turning out to be a promising friendship. He seemed to like her choice of colors, though, so all was not lost. The Countess had not been aware that certain fabrics were reserved for those of higher status, but she couldn't say she was surprised. There seemed to be rules for absolutely everything at court. How long will it be before I break one accidentally?


“I'm not talking about cloth of gold but silk in a golden hue.” Anne-Elisabeth looked around and, finding what she sought, traipsed over to a display of yellows, oranges, and beiges. “This one,” she said, lifting the edge of a bolt of muted amber. “It would make a nice contrast with either the aubergine or the teal.”


She shrugged when Lord Grey asked how to find a tailor. “I have no idea, but I can ask my dressmaker if she knows of one. Or someone around here might be able to tell you. In fact, I should probably leave you alone. You'll be more likely to attract the attention of the shop girls if they don't think you're in the company of a woman. And I need to get this gown repaired. I ripped it on one the topiaries in the garden when I was going outside to lie on the ground and look at the stars.”


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     “Hopefully they won’t”, Henry said. He truly did not know how much time politics would take, but he did not want to spend more than a day or two in a row without working on his lenses. His face brightened at the mention of recess. “I have been to the Kingdom of Bohemia and the Republic of Venice”, he commented. “Beautiful places both, especially Venice. Perhaps you should start your travels in the Republic”. A very cosmopolitan city, Venice was sure to enchant and seduce Anne-Elizabeth.

     “Mademoiselle Vauquelin? I haven’t had the pleasure to meet her acquaintance yet. But any friend of yours is bound to be delightful”, the baron said gallantly. Good manners had been drilled into him with a length of birch until they flowed out of him like sap from a tree. Had Henry stopped to think about it, he would have thanked his father and tutors.

     “Ah! I understand now and agree with you”. Lord Grey looked at the amber-colored fabric. “It does indeed go well with the others”. I may know a bit about light and colours, but not in this context. Regarding clothing I really, really need help. In fact, Henry looked more like a slightly affluent commoner than like the wealthy peer he was. That was something that would need to change. Urgently.

     It was too much to ask for Lady Cambray, a widow, to know about tailors. “Perhaps someone here will know yes”, he agreed. The countess needed to get her gown repaired. It was time to part ways. “My lady, thank you for the pleasure of your company, and for enlightening me regarding the colours and fabrics of court”. Henry bowed, more gracefully than expected for someone slightly overweight. “Until we meet again”. He would kiss a hand if offered.

     Now to call for someone’s attention. He was at a loss on what too do, so he did the first thing that came to mind; he raised his hand.

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He was not as well-traveled as Anne-Elisabeth had thought, or maybe the two places he mentioned were the ones he found most memorable. “I will keep that in mind,” she said. She'd heard at lot about Venice and its Carnival. If she visited it, she would go during the celebrations. Mischief of all kinds could be found there, and one could hide one's participation in the more controversial activities by wearing a mask. Not that the Countess had anything to hide. She just liked the mysteriousness of it.


Lord Grey agreed with her about the golden fabric. Hopefully, he would use her recommendations when ordering his new wardrobe. But that was not her business and it was better to leave him to the expertise of Norrington's employees before she suggested something that would break one of those unwritten guidelines of which there were so many. “It was my pleasure,” she replied, holding up one hand to be kissed. “I am very happy that I met you and I hope we will see each other again soon.”


With a playful wink, she was off to find someone to repair the tear in her gown.

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Elvira Norrington had already noticed the middle-aged, overweight man wearing an outfit that had been out-of-date for some time, but she was too busy to approach him and the lady who was with him, probably his daughter because of the age difference between the two. She had just finished arranging a delivery for one of her most frequent customers when she noticed the gentleman raise his hand. He was alone now and apparently trying to attract the attention of one of her employees. The first day of the season was always hectic.


She approached him herself, the tape measure she wore around her neck swinging from side to side with each step she made. “How may I help you, my lord?”

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     When Elvira approached Henry and asked how she could be of help, there were obvious signs of relief on his face. “Baron Henry Grey”, he said with a friendly nod. “And I am in more need of assistance than I thought at first, it seems.” He paused to collect his thoughts into some semblance of logic. “I am to take my seat in Lords next week, and I have come to realize that my… wardrobe… is not up to court standards, neither in cut nor in colour”.

     Mrs. Norrington could make her own mind on the matter, but something told the nobleman that she would agree. She seemed to know what he was talking about.

     “Lady Cambray, the lady I was conversing with until now, suggests colours like these…”, the baron pointed at the fabrics Anne-Elizabeth had shown him, the aubergine and teal first, and then the amber. “I not only need to be presentable at the next session of the House, but also there are bound to be social functions over the season, functions I will need to attend, so I guess I do not need only an outfit, but rather a whole new wardrobe...”

     His tone became almost pleading, and so did his eyes. If she had ever seen one, Henry’s countenance would remind her of a St. Hubert’s Hound*

     “I would appreciate it very much if you were to help me in this endeavour”.

* The precursor of both the Basset Hound and the Blood Hound, from the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hubert in Belgium.

Edited by Henry Grey
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To his credit, Lord Grey had realized his current attire was not fit for the splendor of court. Elvira had assumed that he was here to have gowns made for his daughter, but the lady who had been with him was apparently not related to him at all. He was not the first gentlemen to visit her establishment thinking that it had a men's department. She got a few every season that she had to turn away, newcomers who didn't know where to get their clothing made.


“My shop caters only to ladies, Lord Grey. You need a tailor and the best way to locate one is to find a gentleman whose style you admire and ask if he knows of one. That is the best advice I can give you.”


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     His hope to be helped died a cruel death. The establishment, it seemed, catered only to female clientele. That explains why the fashion plates only showed creations for ladies. His pleading countenance melted into a tired mask. What do I do now?

     “Oh…” was all he managed to say.

     Henry would not be properly dressed for the taking his Seat, and that troubled him. Everywhere else he did not mind as much, unless there was an event with Royal attendance, but the House of Lords did. He would be doing his family name a disservice.

     “I am sorry to have taken from your busy time with such a trifle”, he managed to mumble, “please pardon me”. With that, a slump-shouldered baron nodded and left.

OOC: thanks for a great thread 😊

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