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Best Laid Plans | 3rd April, after church

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The geometric lines of the House stand stark against a neatly cropped lawn - it's gardens comprised of neatly trimmed hedges in the shapes of various mythological beasts. Beneath the Echidna tree is a marble bench from which the garden's design is optimally viewed - where upon in the dusk and a gentle breeze granting susurration to the leaves, the garden seems to come alive with excitement and adventure.


A sweeping arched driveway enters from one gateway and exeunt through the other, that carriages might drive right up to the steps that lead up to the house.



Anne-Elisabeth ran her fingers fondly down the cylinder of her telescope as she waited for Davina to arrive. She had decided to have lunch served in the upstairs parlor instead of in the dining room. It was lit naturally by the rays of the sun streaming through the large window that spanned the length and width of the farthest wall. They would also have more privacy here to discuss the tasks that Lady Mountjoy had set for them and how to proceed.


A table had been placed in the center of the room, covered with a light amber tablecloth. Two chairs sat before it, made of rich dark mahogany and upholstered in light amber, turquoise, and deep coral. The other furniture and decorations echoed the tropical color scheme and the paintings on the wall depicted beaches, the ocean, palm trees, flamingos parrots, and brightly colored flowers. There were several large potted plants set artfully around the parlor and vases full of flowers sat upon small tables next to pretty seashells.


The dark-haired Countess looked forward to seeing her friend again and showing her around her new house.

Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux
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  • 2 weeks later...

After returning from Church Davina had puttered around doing some little things until it was time for her to leave.

For once her place of destination was close at hand - being just next to her brothers own residence - and so she was able to be carefree in her mood and not feel pressed for time. It was also a good thing to not have to worry about being seen and reconigized which was always an issue for her encounters with Charles. 

She had changed from her Chapel Attire into a gown design for Comfort not Show. It was something that she would have worn in the country at Matching with its bodice and closed skirt of rose brocade devoid of fancy expensive laces and metalic trims. She worn her double strand pearl necklace which was tied at the back of her neck with a thin sapphire blue colored ribbon that added color. Four light weight linen petticoats gave her skirt the required fullness yet still allowed her to move easily and she had paired pale yellow stockings with her black shoes. Her hair was unadorned and worn in one long single braid.  This was an informal look to be sure but she would never be taken for anything other than what she was - a privilaged woman.

Together with her maid Poppy who carried a small leather bound book and one male servant carrying a medium sized wicker basket she made her way at the appointed hour and arrived on the doorstep where Poppy rapped sharply ready to announce her Mistress' arrival.

Davina was indeed curious as to what might lie behind the walls of this house as well as looking at the telescope. But of more import was the desired Plan to outmaneuver Lady Mountjoy! Yet there also lingered the words the Marchioness had said after Church which might make all of this too much to accomplish. 

She would have to speak it all to the Countess and then they might both decide. 

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The door was answered by a middle-aged man dressed in dove gray. He wore a turquoise fabric rosette attached to his jacket. In the center was a small golden seashell. The livery his mistress had ordered had not yet arrived and the pin marked him as one of her servants.


“You are Mistress Wellsley?” he asked. “Lady Cambray is expecting you.” The walls of the foyer were covered in cream and gold damask wallpaper and black and white diagonal tiles comprised the floor. On one side was a curved mahogany staircase leading to the second floor and on the other stood a small table with a mirror above it. Upon the table was a porcelain vase containing a mixture of colorful flowers.


The servant led Davina up the staircase and to the open doorway of the parlor where Anne-Elisabeth was waiting for her, wearing a sapphire silk gown adorned with golden braid and multicolored beads. “Come in, Mistress Wellsley,” she said, smiling broadly. “Welcome to my new house.”


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They were admitted and with curious eyes followed the servant as he led them upstairs. 

Davina did not comment but now and then a small nod was given as they went past items or a color she found pleasant. It took no time to arrive where the Countess was.

Davina turned to greet her with a smile and a curtsey.

"Lady Cambrey! What I have seen I think I like - did you change anything? How was it before?"

She moved closed and indicated that the servant set the basket on an empty chair and from Poppy she took the leather book and then they were both dismissed. Poppy would wait outside incase she was wanted and the servant would return back to the Residence.

"I hope you do not mind but I have brought a few things   ..."

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Growing up on a sugar plantation on Barbados, Anne-Elisabeth had thought of the slaves that maintained it as invisible. That attitude applied to servants as well and she barely noticed the two who accompanied Davina or her own servant's departure.


“I changed very little. The décor was a bit too monochromatic for my tastes, so I added some color with the furnishings, which are all new. I do love the gold and cream wallpaper, so I decided to keep it, occasionally repainting over a wall for contrast.” One of the walls in the parlor had been painted in a medium coral hue. "I gave this room a sea theme which reminds me of my homeland, since I knew I would be spending a lot of time here. The other rooms have different color schemes.


“Oh, you didn't have to,” she said, arching one eyebrow at the basket. She could guess what the book was for. She and Davina had a lot of planning to do over lunch today.


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Davina nodded as she looked this room over. She would have altered here and there but that was her own taste.

"It must give you some comforts then to arrange it to remind you of that palce. Did you send someone to the Sea perhaps to bring back sand and shells? Shall you fill a pond with saltwater ?" 

She teased back. But then the Countess just might have the intentions to do just that!

"Now as to this ..."

She went to the basket and untied the lid.

"Baintree sends his Compliments with this nice bottle of French Brandy which he will not miss but when you are introduced be sure to thank him! He does not know I have it you see."

She set the bottle down then took out something wrapped in rose colored fabric carefully revealing two cut crystal glasses.

"May I?" She asked as she made use of a near by table. "They are quite delicate but entirely suited for Brandy!"

"After our luncheon I thought about what might be of better use so then arranged to have this delivered. I hope that they are to your liking."

Davina would hand the Countess a neatly wrapped bundle. Once opened she would find an ivory and brass handled two tined fork and knife set within a leather sheath.

"There is also these that accompany. They are something large enough to function yet not look like another sleeve!"

(two white linen napkins of a nice size and not as large as some made use of hence the reference to 'sleeves')

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Anne-Elisabeth laughed at Davina's teasing. “Actually, I'm thinking of having a decorative pond placed in the gardens. It probably won't have saltwater but it will have fish. The only drawback is that it might attract cats.” She made a face. “I don't like cats at all.” Felines were too much like her … sleek and confident and arrogant.


She sat down in the empty chair as Davina opened the basket and pulled out a bottle of brandy. Again, she chuckled. “Oh I will definitely thank him. Since he doesn't know that he has given it to me, the expression on his face will be priceless.” Not for the first time, she wondered what Mistress Wellsley's brother was like. Did he share her engaging personality or was he of a more somber inclination? “I admit I look forward to meeting him.”


Her eyes lit up at the sight of the lovely crystal chalices. “They're beautiful. We shall use them today and break them in right, if you don't mind.”


Anne-Elisabeth had not expected any gifts at all, but she was delighted by Davina's generosity. She unwrapped the bundle and grinned. “These will definitely come in handy. I had planned to buy another set, as one of mine got lost in the move. And I do like the smaller size of the napkins.” Setting them upon the table, she took her friend's hands in hers and squeezed them. “Thank you, Mistress Wellsley. You are so thoughtful. It is no wonder that Her Majesty keeps you at her side.


“How is she, by the way? I pray every evening that she will deliver a healthy son.” Actually, the raven-haired Countess rarely prayed at all, only when she needed something for herself, but it seemed like the right thing to say.


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"I am pleased indeed that I thought of such a clever gift! Tis a necessity for we are no longer Savages who eat with fingers!"

"Now as to Her Majesty and I ... I am her servant naturally and so I needs must do as best as I can. For all the reasons we have discussed. Ah. My Brother."

She smiled a little and shook her head.

"His Christian name is Richard but like all he goes by his title and thus I am used to saying 'Baintree' more than his name. He has changed somewhat and is quieter. If you wish I shall tell you more of him."

"I had hoped we might make use of the Brandy. Yet I do not wish to disrupt what ever you have planned?"

Davina returned the gesture adding

"Shall we dispense with formalities and address the other by first name? I am Davina yet you have two names so am I to call Anne-Elizabeth or do you shorten it in some fashion."

"And then we should devote some thinking to this 'task' set by Lady Mountjoy. I was earlier with my Aunt the Marchioness of Winchester in Chapel and after we spoke some words of which we need to address."

"I saw you too - with the Annesley's."

Here her tone grew more serious and she did not smile. 

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“Some of the natives in Barbados still do,” Anne-Elisabeth remarked. “I haven't seen them eat anything messy, just pieces of fruit and things that are easily picked up. Maybe they use forks for mushy foods, but I rather doubt it. They are quite resistant to change, preferring their own tried and true ways.”


Davina revealed a bit more about her brother. “All that really matters is that he treats you well and appreciates you. When I meet him, I can judge his character myself.” One eyebrow rose slightly. “He is not looking for a wife, is he? If so, perhaps it is better that I do not meet him at all, unless I am not the type of lady he is attracted to. I'm not ready to jump into another marriage so soon after my first.”


Anne-Elisabeth stood up and picked up the two glasses, carrying them to the table where lunch would be served. “I was going to give you a choice of drinks. We can definitely have the brandy with our meal. If I am going to tell your brother how much I enjoyed it, I should know what it tastes like first. You know, I think I will send a bottle of my coconut rum back with you as a neighborly gift for him. I'd also like for you to try it before you leave.”


The Countess grinned. “I would like that very much, Davina. You may call me Alissa. When I was a very young child, that was the closest I could come to pronouncing my full given name and the nickname stuck. It's also a lot easier to say. Both of my grandmothers wanted me called after them and that is why I have a double name.”


She indicated one of the chairs in front of the table. “Please sit down. Lunch will be served soon.” Anne-Elisabeth sat down in the other chair and Bess brought the bottle of brandy over, opening it and pouring it into both crystal glasses. “Yes, I agree. We need to figure out how to do what she asked of us. The days are passing quickly.”


So Davina had spoken of her to her Aunt, a Marchioness. Her recommendation might impress Lady Mountjoy, assuming that Anne-Elisabeth could sway her into giving one. Davina had also seen her with the Angelseys. Warning bells rang in her mind when her friend's smile faded. “Are the Angelselys out of favor? Did I accidentally sit by the wrong people at church?”


Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux
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"Good! I am glad that you are not overly stuffy in Private." 

"Shall you want everyone to address you as 'Lady Anne-Elizabeth' then since that IS how you are called or shall it simply be 'Lady Anne'? "

Davina strolled towards the table and gave a nod in the direction of the bottle of Brandy. 

"Please sooner than later. I have a need and you might too."

"My brother WAS indeed in need of a wife for his Mistress was entirely unsuitable as his Viscountess. But now he is taken. His future wife is Lady Catherine Howard daughter of the Duke of Norfolk and his second wife Jane. She was his mistress for many years and after then death of his first wife then he married her. They are expanding the Howard Dynasty even more and it is to one of those children that Baintree will wed.."

"She is a VERY devout Catholic so tis all a wonder how this shall work. Baintree will no doubt allow her to practice in private as many do yet conform on the outside."

The Countess might then gather that Davina and her brother were Catholic as well but did she understand what was meant by a Public Conversion?

She sat spreading her skirts giving a small shake of her head at the last question.

"No they are fine. As you were engaged so was I - with a daughter-in-law the Lady Elizabeth. Here let me tell you what occured ..."

Davina then told her about the conversation she and the Marchioness had had.

"I simply said what was true - Lady Mountjoy does have a bee in her bonnet on this subject. I said nothing that was insulting!"

"I was suitable chastised. How was I to know that Lady Elizabeth Annsley - who was walking behind - MAY have overheard that conversation?"

"The Marchioness took her leave and I spent time in chatter with the Lady but no sign did she give of anything. I even spoke of further meeting and she pressed me for time and place! So I said that no doubt some Court Event would entice us both and then we parted."

"But what is of more import is what my Aunt said - The Queen will not accept you in a Position with your current following. How could I even think of thinking of more ways round it? I am sorry Alissa. What we have discussed may well be impossible now."

"And now I think is the moment for Brandy."

"Unless you can think up some other plan ...."

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Anne-Elisabeth laughed. “There is such confusion over my name that I'll answer to almost anything, including 'Hey You.' Most people call me Lady Cambray, and that is what I prefer.” Each time she was addressed by her title, she felt as if it was a slap in her hated mother-in-law's face.


She was relieved that Baintree was already betrothed. It was always awkward to turn down the advances of the brother of one's friend, particular if said friend wanted the two to marry. As it was, he had snagged the daughter of a family much more famous and powerful than her own. She wasn't aware of the woman's bastard status, though she knew that the Howards were Catholic.  Apparently Davina was too, and did not try to hide it. If a Catholic can become a lady-in-waiting to a Protestant Queen, why can't a lady with libertine connections achieve the same? From what I have seen so far, libertines are not as reviled as Catholics.  One's faith made no difference to her.  She only went to church to socialize, not to worship.


After they were seated, the Countess discovered why Davina thought that they would both need brandy. She listened to her friend recount her conversation with her aunt with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. What bothered her wasn't that the Queen was against libertines (she had known that already which was one thing that made winning a position in her household so interesting) but that the Marchioness had judged her without even meeting her. Not all libertines were made from the same mold, and she believed that she could add some flavor that Her Majesty's presence chamber was currently lacking without any impropriety at all. Did not the Queen want laughter ringing through her halls?


“You're right about the brandy,” she replied, taking a sip from her chalice. “I wonder now if what Lady Mountjoy wanted us to discover is that none of the Queen's ladies are libertines. She didn't say anything about my choice of lifestyle, but I suppose she could have known. People are probably talking about my victory over the King of Limericks and it would be difficult to best him with a pious poem.


“I still believe that I can thrive in both worlds.” Setting her glass back on the table, she leaned forward. “The most important thing is that you are not hurt by my ambitions, and that the Queen does not look upon you unfavorably because of your association with me. If you don't wish to assist me anymore, than I will not think ill of you for it. If you wish me to drop the idea of serving the Queen, I will do that as well. There are other paths that I can pursue or perhaps Her Majesty will notice me herself and decide that I would be a good choice for her.


“As for your lady aunt, do you think she would agree to meet with me? It seems wrong to judge someone on reputation alone. I would like to show her that all libertines are not cut from the same cloth. Some of them can be quite respectable.”


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"It is quite easy here At Court to find out anything about anyone and I am sure Lady Mountjoy has already sought that about you. She knew your husband had died and made comment of it with sympathies at first meeting."

"Lady Mountjoy might have another agenda of which I know nothing. Perhaps the Queen has asked or someone else? Tis possible. There are many variables and that makes it harder."

"And I would know if any of her Ladies were Libertine after all this time. The effects off such a Lifestyle can not be hidden forever. And beside tongues would wag and thus it would be common knowledge."

"The Marchioness is ever cautious of Position and in all truth I am as well. She is thinking that I associate with you so that I can 'reform' and bring you into the Fold of Respectablity but I think I made some comment about how that was not the purpose. That led to her saying twas an impossibility for a position of any kind with the Queen and she has commanded me to attend her on the morrow. Further discourse will be had and my straying into the realm of something I should not will be talked of as well."

"Ah but in that your are wrong. Ones' Reputation is Everything. You are new to Court and have ideas and thoughts that differ and your liking for Libertine Ways will label You no matter how unjust it may be."

"Yet I will not dissuade you from trying. And who is to say that you will not Succeed! You are most likable and the Queen might indeed find you amusing."

She gave a small sigh and took a healthy sip of Brandy then drained the glass.

"Do you?" Said in seriousness. "Think that I mean. And how do you intend to 'thrive'?"

"Ah. Well I thank you for your concern but I am already taken to task by Her Grace".

She smiled across the table as she reached for the bottle filling up her glass.

 "Shall I tell you a 'secret' then?"

"If I am looked upon with disfavor tis because I am a Catholic yet one who conforms Pubically as many have done. Tis not a good time for Catholics here in England and so many have choosen to 'convert' Pubilcally and go to Chapel - as I did this morning - to make a good Show of it."

" We worship in private - or I suppose that is what everyone does. I do so and try to keep the Saints Days as best I can. I followed the direction of the Wind but I never recanted. My Faith is my own."

This was so quietly said that Anne-Elizabeth might well believe it.

 "And now you have a piece of information few have. I wonder how it will be used?"

She gave a small shrug of one shoulder. The brandy was strong and drunk without food making her less cautious with her words. Or perhaps it was a combination of that and her own unhappiness.

"Tis also because I have not fallen into the 'Marriage Market' that had been arranged with the aid of my brother with The Queen."

"I was to have 'wed' afore the clock struck midnight on the 31 of December. So commanded Her Majesty. Yet how was I to cast a net and hook a husband in such a short time?"

"The pool is rather limited as you might expect. I have my Ambition and to marry beneath my own station is not an option."

My brother has his mind set on several candidates as does Her Majesty. Yet I am being allowed to chose as well." 

Edited by Davina Wellsley
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Anne-Elisabeth listened intently as Davina explained further why a position with the Queen might be impossible for one with libertine leanings. She spoke more about her aunt as well, and the young Countess chuckled when her friend said that the Marchioness thought she was trying to reform her. “You have inspired me to consider more respectable pursuits, so you have reformed me a little bit. Before I met you, I would never have thought of serving the Queen. You can tell your aunt that if you wish.”


As for reputations: “Some are undeserved and in truth, every living soul has multiple facets to his or her personality. One may be proper in some instances and unconventional in others.” She was tempted to remind Davina that she had ventured into the realm of the Merry Gang during the limerick contest and her reputation was beyond reproach, but she was afraid that might make her angry and she valued their friendship too much to casually toss it away. “Because I am new at court, I can shape my own reputation. While most courtiers may think I am libertine now, I could surprise them by showing that I have a decorous side as well.


“That is what I am aiming for. And the way I intend to thrive in both worlds is by anticipating needs and filling them. I have discovered that I do that quite well. So if I continue to visit the Queen's presence chamber and contribute a service that is valuable and useful and that no one else currently provides, I may find myself exactly where I want to be.” She planned to do the same with the King when she became part of his entourage … make herself indispensable to him.


The details of how Catholics worshiped in secret wasn't a surprise. She did much the same thing; she went to Church because it was expected and because it was a great place to see and be seen, not because she was particularly religious. There were probably many other courtiers who did the same. In fact, she would wager that only a handful of them were even the least bit pious or concerned with the fate of their souls. “I shall keep it secret, of course,” she said about the information her friend had given her.


She took another deep gulp of brandy. “I doubt not that any gentleman would be honored to marry you, Davina. There will probably be many vying for your favor. And you get to choose? That is unusual. I had no say. My father chose my husband for me. How lucky you are! Do you already have a preference as to who you would like to spend the rest of your life with?”


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"Yes you are right - here At Court there are many types and personalities and behaviors are oft times excused. But continue on your quest to win over The Queen will not be an easy task. Lady Mountjoy has already spoke of you I would venture a guess and given the Queen's present state I do not think it will be favorable. Perhaps once the child is born  ..." She shrugged one shoulder. "Yet again to go boldly onto the battlefield with confidence might well deliver as you want."

"I still think you need a Sponsor. And Alissa it might well prove to be what saves you and allows for you to gain a holding. The question is WHO should have the honor? My Aunt will not. That road is closed.  I wonder ...."

She trail off thinking her chin resting on one upturned palm.

"What if we change direction? We have been thinking of a Lady to act as Sponsor but why not a Gentleman? Approach from The King's Side I mean. Its been done many times with His Majesty promoting a Lady for his Wife's household. Not everyone one is a Mistress after all. His Grace the Duke of Buckingham is the King's close confident and friend. Libertine. His sister is the Lady Mary, Dowager Duchess of Richmond and Lennox, has earned a reputation for many 'adventures' and she might well be persuaded to apply some influence in the direction you wish. If that Lady can be convinced she might well whisper to her brother and he to the King."

"What do you think? Am I reaching to far?"

The idea was no doubt utterly foolish and prone to failure but yet why not? The Countess would possibly make a very good connection and also enlarge her own circle with those of like mind. 

"Yes. Marriage to ME is an Honor indeed. I am well connected thru kinship and thus my husband will have backing. I want to move from Maid of Honor to Presence or even Bedchamber but I must be married for that."

She sighed and drank more.

"Tis true I have been lax and Her Grace's command was last Summer so time did provide but I was ... otherwise occupied. But now I am not."

"Ah the suitable candidates." She smiled across the table. "Well one is a foreign Gentleman - German to be precise. But we parted well enough. Amongst those available for my consideration six are younger than I two are near enough but belong to Norfolk and I have said 'no' to one already. Two Earls but, well, sufice it to say that one will never be and the other - there too I have had a falling out. There is Dorset but bans are read and he marries Frances Cavendish a Duke's daughter and she will be a Double Countess. So you see the field has narrowed. There are a few Viscounts I could add and then those Scottish Lords as well."

"If I do not chose then one from amongst all of those will be the one I am married to."

"I could always go to The Church. But that Life is not one I am at ALL suited for."

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“I'm not expecting it to be easy and I doubt that anyone will be appointed to Her Majesty's household until her child is delivered.” Anne-Elisabeth suddenly realized that she had some serious pondering to do. She was not completely sure if she was more excited by the challenge of becoming the first libertine to be accepted into the Queen's service or the position itself. If the former, she needed to give it up because once she received what she thought she wanted, it would make her miserable.


Davina's suggestion to find a gentleman to sponsor her was definitely worth thinking about. The Countess was much better at charming men than she was at charming women, unless said women were attracted to their own gender. A few of her most memorable affairs had been with other ladies. “No, your idea definitely has merit.  But would the Queen not resent ladies recommended by His Majesty, believing them to be his playthings? I have absolutely no intention of becoming the King's mistress and were he to proposition me, I would promptly turn him down. What does the Queen think of the Dowager Duchess? Would her recommendation be readily accepted? I do not know her, but I could try to obtain an introduction. Or better yet, contrive to meet her 'accidentally,' by finding out where she likes to spend her time.”


Their meal arrived on silver trays and they were placed in the center of the table. Everything was cold, from the savory lightly spiced cured meats and fresh seafood to the exotic fruits that had been a bit costly. “Help yourself,” Anne-Elisabeth told her friend. “This is how we usually eat in Barbadoes. It is so hot there that nobody wants to eat piping hot food.”


She wouldn't have expected Davina to be the least bit arrogant, but she did think highly of her marriage potential and that made Anne-Elisabeth smile. “If you marry a German, wouldn't you have to leave court and move to your husband's homeland? Or does he reside here at court? There is certainly nothing wrong with wedding a younger man. You will not have to break him of any bad habits and he will be more inclined to want to please you.”


The Countess had heard the banns read at Church and wasn't really surprised that Dorset was to be wed. She doubted he would ever mend his licentious ways and felt a bit sorry for his future wife. She was glad that he had not been chosen for Davina. She deserved a man who would love and cherish her, not take a million and one mistresses right in front of her eyes.


“You are no more suited for the Church than I am,” she declared. " I think that the best thing to do is to choose one of the candidates vying for your hand, rather than letting one be chosen for you. Do you know any of them personally or are they all strangers?”  She and Arthur had time to get to know each other before they had married, but she had discovered that customs were more strictly enforced here than they had been in the Caribbean.


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"Well you would be one of the few that had no Ambition to occupy the King's bed then! And as for the Queen not accepting ..." She gave a small shrug of one shoulder. "The Officials that run her Household are all men and can hardly object if His Majesty sends a Lady to be part of the household. Its not like it has never happened before yet you are correct in that they were mistresses and the Queen has no choice but to accept. If that DOES happen here then you must accept that you will not find much favor."

"So this was another bad thought. Perhaps I need to drink more?"

She eyed the table thus adorned but found herself unwilling to eat yet could not out of Politness refus the offerings. She knew the fruit must have been an expensive to she made to sample that first.

"Yet you may still make free to reach out to the Dowager - I can hardly help with that. Well Buckingham does owe me a favor from last Summer but I doubt he has a memory of it. As for what Her Grace thinks of the Duchess I do not know. She, like many, have to at least be civil in Public to that Family for the Duke rises high in the Kings favor and one does not make The King Unhappy."

"Ah well tis a good thing that The German and I will not be wed. And that was my fear as well - having to leave here. Home. He remains abaout Court and when we meet or pass tis civil enough. He is not a bad man at all. Perhaps you might find him interesting."

She chuckled a bit at that thought.

"A younger husband is not for me. I do not want to play tutor on my wedding night nor calm a nervous bridegroom."

"But tis normal for a man to take a mistress. She is there for his needs after all. A Wife is different. She runs his House. Gives him legitimate children. His Heir. But I will be firm in that regard for I do not intend to raise a bastard child amongst my own."

The words spoke about the Church and then her choosing one of the men acted as a sobering tonic for Davina. She sighed and set her glass aside unfinished.

"Yes. I am indeed running out of Time and I fully expect The Queen and my Brother to soon tighten the rope that binds me."

"We are all known to each other. And I had thought at one time to marry one but it was not to be and ended badly. We have just recently called Pax and I hope he can find the woman he needs for his Countess. As for the rest, well, each has merit in all honesty. So it will all come down to which one has more Ambition and Success and offers the Best Deal. One does not enter into Marrige for Love amongst those of our Class Alissa, or hardly ever. But I should hope that "Like" would develope and we are helpmates for each other. Does that sound impossible?"  

"What is it I wonder about You that makes me speak so freely? The Brandy certainly is involved  ....."

Edited by Davina Wellsley
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“Maybe the reason I don't is because everyone else does.” Anne-Elisabeth enjoyed being contrary and going against the grain. She was more likely to stand out that way. There was another reason she didn't want to sleep with the King, but she couldn't reveal that to Davina. Saying she had no desire to be faithful to any one man would attest to her experience in the bedchamber, which might not sit well with her friend.


“More drink is always helpful. I think I'll pass on trying to get the King to sponsor me. I don't want to be merely tolerated and then dismissed at the first opportunity. I want to make myself useful and serve the Queen well.” Did she really want that? Or should she let this idea go and concentrate on earning a place in the King's entourage instead? The Countess had an extremely high opinion of herself, but she had to admit that it would be nearly impossible to remain in the Queen's household while included in the King's intimate circle. If anyone could do it, she could. Yet some things just couldn't be done.


Anne-Elisabeth took a healthy helping of everything on the trays. “So you have already said no to the German? I wouldn't mind meeting him. I don't know any Germans and I'd be interested in hearing about his homeland and his travels. Maybe you can introduce me to him when we're all in the same place.”


As she peeled a boiled shrimp, she chuckled. “A gentleman a couple of years younger than you has probably already had at least one mistress, so you wouldn't have to worry about him being inexperienced.” Most of her lovers had told her they had started young, but then again, gentlemen enjoyed  bragging about their sexual prowess.


She was surprised that Davina was so complacent when it came to mistresses. Were they accepted here in England or even encouraged when a wife had no interest in sharing her husband's bed except to get with child? In this, Barbados had been stricter. Mistresses had been frowned upon, perhaps because it was a small community and most non-noble ladies were either servants or natives.


“That sounds like a good plan,” Anne-Elisabeth agreed. “You don't want a husband who has no desire for success. You should seek them out at court events and get to know each of them better so you'll be able to tell which one of them you will get along with best. That's important as well. I confess that I was hoping for love when I married, but that wasn't what happened. Had my lord husband lived, I think we would have come to like and respect each other with time. So no, I don't think that is impossible at all.”

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Davina nodded her head.

"Yes the IDEA of it was a good but the more we discuss the clearer it appears that the chances of you getting a Position are reducing more and more."

"And it is not from want of trying however! The ideas we both said hold merit and who is to say that you will not succeed? The Queen is young but well-schooled in her Position and as such does not wish to see repeatings of what occuerd under the Late Queen. Hence her dismissal of those that were Mistresses."

"Yes." She smiled. "He is not a bad figure. He is called Sebastian von Brühl and his Title is equally unpronouncable but is like an English Baron. Twenty seven with brown hair worn long, blue eyes and a beard - or so he last time we saw each other. Tall near unto six feet. Rides. Dances passing well. Oh!"

She gave a small exclimanation as she remembered something. "He knows Lady Mountjoy! I seem to recall he said he served in her Household but as to details I do not know. I think I shall have to see if he is still about and at the next Funcrtion introduce the two of you. He is not to Marry of course but, well, I shall leave the rest to your thinkings."

"No. I do not want a husband younger than I no matter the benefits. I prefer a man already skilled."

"Now that the Season is started Court shall fill up and more things will be occuring. I shall indeed have to be in earnest now. My Brother will look at it from the angle of what it will bring to him and if its good enough then he will not mind parting with a larger dowery plus my jointure which is seperate."


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Anne-Elisabeth had no intention of pushing Davina into helping her get a position in the Queen's household, as it might put her own position in danger. It was strange, but she felt protective of the other woman, even though she was the younger of the two. From here on out, it would be her project and hers alone, unless she could enlist the help of somebody who didn't have much to lose. She still needed to figure out if serving the Queen was what she truly wanted to do.


The picture Davina painted of Lord von Brühl was quite appealing. And he was acquainted with Lady Mountjoy? Even better. Whether or not she chose to pursue serving the Queen, she still wished impress both Her Majesty and her Mistress of the Robes. “Oh yes, I definitely want to meet him. The last thing I'm looking for is another husband and certainly not one who will spirit me away to another country, but I'm curious as to why you say he is not to marry.”


Her friend was adamant about not wedding a younger man. Anne-Elisabeth had no such qualms, though so far all of her lovers had been older. That was pretty much a given when one was only eighteen. However, she could see herself in twenty-five or thirty years dallying with handsome young gentlemen half her age. In fact, she quite looked forward to it.


“What if your brother decides that the gentleman who offers him the most is one that you do not like? Will you be able to refuse him and make your own choice instead?”

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"Twas simply said because he IS Foreign and to marry might well mean leaving here for wherever he wished to go. That is not for me. However you are different. So the circumstances might be beneficial for you."

"That is that I am afriad of the most. As I have said the choices are limited but I also know that my brother will not Force me to marry. He would not be so cruel."

Her words sounded convincing yet she knew he could be unpredictable at times and with his current mindset of seemingly wanting to Please Norfolk in all things, well, she might fall victum to that.

"Let us not speak of this anymore."

"Show me this 'spy-glass' for I want to look thru it. Or doers it have to be dark?"

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“Ahh, okay,” Anne-Elisabeth replied after Davina had explained why she had said that the German lord was not to marry. “I feel the same way. I don't want to be stuck in some strange country where I don't speak the language. I don't even want to go back to Barbados, not even for a visit. That shipwreck made me wary of traveling long distances by sea. I do miss that sunny island, and probably always will, but my home is here now. When I first arrived at court, it was like a homecoming and I immediately felt as if I belonged.”


She said nothing more about marriage, as Davina no longer wished to talk about it. Astronomy was a far more interesting subject anyway. Finishing a banana and laying its peel upon her plate, she stood up and walked toward the window where her telescope stood. “You can look through it, but you won't see anything while it's so cloudy. It's better to use it at night when the sky is clear.


“Though it might seem useful for snooping on one's neighbors,” she chuckled, “the magnification is too strong for that. So you don't have to worry that I'll see into your brother's garden. I do wish I could spy on Dorset, though.” The young Countess chuckled. “No telling what he gets up to in the privacy of his own yard.”


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She had not noticed the object by the window but now that it had been pointed out she rose from the table and went to look more closely.

"So I look out this end and the other gives me the view?"

She bent a bit and fixed one eye to the opening then drew back exclaiming over her shoulder disappointedly "I can see nothing but grayness as you said. Yet it feels like I could reach out and touch it nonetheless." 

"So what causes me to see something that is not really that close? That can be done as well - to 'spy' on others I mean? But how would you be able to see anything - would it not be the same as now?"

Davina was very curious about this contraption. And the 'idea' of using it to look at what those that also lived on Piccadilly might be doing was a thing she had to see to believe.

"Can it be made smaller? Or must it be carried like it is to different places?" 

Edited by Davina Wellsley
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  • 2 weeks later...

“Yes,” Anne-Elisabeth encouraged, “that's exactly what you do.” She had already warned Davina that all she would see was gray, but her friend seemed disappointed nevertheless. “Clouds do look close enough to touch."


As for how it worked, the dark-haired Countess shrugged. “From what I've read, the lenses collect and bend light so that you can observe objects that are too far away to be seen by the naked eye. With this telescope, one can't spy on one's neighbors because the magnification is too high.”


She grinned. “Trust me, I tried. All I could see is what you're seeing now, but instead of gray, it was either green when I focused on a tree or the color of a house when I turned it toward one. No detail could be seen at all. You would need binoculars, which are not as powerful, to peer into nearby yards.


“And yes, it can be taken apart and reassembled. It's cumbersome and heavy but it can be moved long distances in a wagon. I brought this one from Cornwall. On warm clear nights, my servants take it out to the garden and set it up there. Without window glass between the telescope and the sky, you can see the stars and moon much better.


“Maybe you would like to come over on one of those evenings  The problem is that it is hard to predict when the conditions are perfect beforehand..”


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"You have the strangest choice in books!" She teased. "Ah another new word  - this biknockulers is like this device as well? And do you have one?"

Her new-found friend was proving to be anything but ordinary!

"But of course! I can hardly give up now not after all that you have said. But I am disappointed about this thing ... so you must find a good place out there for better viewing."

"Well once Spring turns to Summer at the Solstice then I think rain or clouds will not be a bother."

"But I do not wish to be an intrusion on your privcy either. You have just settled after all."

"Are you going to Lords?"

She asked as she walked back to the table and took another piece of that delicious fruit.

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“You have no idea,” Anne-Elisabeth laughed. She had books on a variety of subjects that women were discouraged from studying. “Binoculars are like opera glasses, only you can see farther away. I don't have any, but I do have some opera glasses. Those are also not good for spying on one's neighbors.” She would like to acquire binoculars at some point, but she would rather improve the quality of her telescope first, which she hoped Lord Grey would be able to help her with.


“But will court be held during the summer? If it's not, then I'll probably go back to Cornwall. The stench of the city is already overpowering and I imagine that it's worse when it's hot. There's still fresh air by the sea and the nearest village is an hour away if you ride and more than twice that if you take a carriage. Do you think your brother will let you visit me? The universe seems closer there than it does here.”


The slender Countess shook her dark curls and grinned at her friend. “You'll never be a bother to me, Davina. You can stop by whenever you wish and when conditions are favorable, I'll send a note to your brother's house and the palace.” She chuckled. “It would be funny if he is curious about my telescope too and visits me at night on his own.”


She followed Davina back to the table. “Of course I am. I'm nearly as interested in politics as I am in astronomy. If the discussions are for some reason beyond my understanding, I can admire the fine figures of the gentlemen who will be participating. Will you be attending as well? Maybe we can sit together.”

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"Ah I see."

This said to the others description. "I never thought to even try to see if they could be used for such a purpose - imagine that!"

"No Recess returns for then as well and Everyone scatters. But some do remain but not any of the 'fun ones' - or so I think."

Davina studied Anne-Elizabeth a bit closer wondering  how her brother might react to this young woman who was so full of energy and things he's never heard of. Would she appeal to him as a lover? Needham was awful but she would not object if the Countess and her brother found a mutual interest in the other. Catherine was his Wife and she would keep his House and Estates running and give him his heir. A man taking a mistress was not slighting his wife. Men had 'needs' after all and it was the mistress that saw to them. This was a 'general way' of thinking amongst those of Her Class at least in Principle. Davina undestood that many times it was not viewd like that. She also understood what those needs were having been initiated into the delights of the flesh with her own Lover but would she be so free minded when it came to her own husband?

"By all means send him one. I am curious as to know what you think of him and he of you!"

"Yes I will be there. The question is however do I set myself amongst the Howards or remain on my own? For now I think alone - that way if I spy a face I wish to talk to tis easier then trying to offer explanations - especially if the Duchess is present."

"You may find me of course in the Gallery. Or even before. I might be able to put a name to a face if you do not know it already! I shall be wearing a soft pink gown if that will help!"

"I am interested to hear what you think of The Company that attends to witness such heady stuff as will no doubt be spoken of."

"Yet in all seriousness I would think that War will be a focal point and the funding of it. I do not like the idea of so many that I know willingly going off to fight and perhaps die ...."

Edited by Davina Wellsley
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  • 2 weeks later...

Anne-Elisabeth chuckled. “What can I say? I'm the curious sort. And everyone wonders what their neighbors get up to. They should hope that I don't get a pair of binoculars because their secrets will never be safe again.” What if one of them is spying on me? I should do something scandalous in the gardens and if it is spread all over court, then I will know.


“One can have fun anywhere if one is determined. I'll probably be going to my estate during the next recess unless someone presents me with an investment opportunity I can't resist. There's no other reason to stay.” Davina said nothing about visiting her. Perhaps she already knew that her brother would not allow her to visit a libertine widow on her own.


“If I send him an invitation, he might get the wrong idea. You know what gentlemen think about widows. But you can bring him by one day or I can invite both of you to dinner. I would very much like to meet him.”


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"One never knows when an opportunity will arise and must be taken".

"Perhaps you will find entertainments to be better here than in the country - which is oft times the case. As I said Court empties and those that stay behind are not much cause for such yet I should be glad to see you remian if for no other reason that what we are doing now."

"My brother, as well as others' in my Family, will not be 'pleased' that we have an acquaintance. I expect to be given a taste firsthand on the morrow with my Aunt."

"But I am no child that must be led but a woman grown free to make my own decisions."  She then gave a small chuckle adding that "Its all not True however much I wish it so."

"But shall we not dwell upon such things for now? Lords will provide the opportunity for you to be introduced around - you already have that with Dorset and those present that night and now others."

"If you see me or I you let us acknowledge without any fears."

"And as for Baintree I will take that invitation. He will be curious I suspect and will want to have a look at you in person."

This said based upon her own thinkings.

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“Very true. There was nothing much to do here during the winter, or perhaps I wasn't looking hard enough. Most of my time was spent buying this house and overseeing the few renovations that needed to be done. I don't think anyone had lived here in quite some time.” Had Davina known the house's previous owners, she wondered?


In Cornwall, there had been parties and balls almost every week at various estates. They were so far apart that one usually stayed overnight and then left the next morning after breakfast. The owners of said estates were a rather tight-knit group of friends who liked to entertain each other and, by conducting an affair with one of them, Anne-Elisabeth had been accepted within their circle, even after she and her lover parted ways. Maybe in other areas of the country, things were quieter.


“You will be staying in London yourself then?” she asked. If her friend was remaining, than she might stay as well. They lived side by side and could see each other often, as long as Davina's relatives didn't insist that she break off all contact. The Countess would not risk Davina's reputation, and would push her away rather than have her ruined and lose her position because of her association with a libertine widow.


But hopefully, it wouldn't come to that. “You are open-minded enough to understand that a person's personality is neither black nor white. There are many shades of gray in between and I am not the kind of person that most people think I am. I hope to meet your lady aunt eventually and prove to her that I'm not as disreputable as she believes me to be. Will she be at Lords? Maybe you can introduce me to her then? If she shares my interest in politics, we might have something to bond over.”


She grinned. “Of course, I will acknowledge you. We can even sit together if you wish. Will your brother be participating or will he be watching as well? I could invite the two of you to dinner then, or I can send a written invitation if he would be more likely to respond positively to a formal request.”


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"That will depend upon The Queen and when she enters into her Confinement. Once that occurs then there will be little for any of us Maids to do. For most of the Household actually. Tis customary to go into seclusion for the last month." She added in case the other did not know it already. "And then its the choosen few that accampany and are married Ladies of Rank. So I am not able to plan for anything until that is known. But I should like to remain here."

'Yes. People here wear many faces tis true and you have an advantage of being a 'new face' to most of them that were not there for that encounter with Dorset and Company. So you can cultivate however you wish with those you meet."

"I shall look for you then and you are welcom'd to sit with me above. Any that are entitled to sit will be there. I do not know who will speak. And as for my brother Its possioble he will. I am not privy to that."

"Baintree is on a Quest at the moment to see me wedded and bedded so we are at odds even tho I have said I will abide if my choice is not acceptable. And so he will be disinclined to agree to anything. Can you hold off for a while on the invitation? I shall introduce you of course"

"I am saying that from my own state. He might well want to meet you so you are free to extend an invitation however you please." Which was the opposite of what she had just said.

She sighed. "Honestly I am so muddle-headed by everything at the moment I make no sense. "

"I apologize. Let us say that in a weeks time send over a note to us both and we shall let him deciede."

"Will that work?"


(ooc:shall we finish up)



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