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a Skip in his Step | the Strand, 4th April late morning [open]

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The Strand

The Strand is full of shops of all types and sizes, and there are always hackney coaches travelling its length, taking shoppers either to or from the shops to about any destination in London. Of these coaches, Taylor, the "Water Poet," who plied a scull upon the Thames, exclaimed, "They have undone my poor trade!" Speaking of the coaches, he adds, "This infernal swarm of trade spillers have so overrun the land, that we can get no living on the water; for I dare truly affirm, that every day in any term, especially if the court be at Whitehall, they do rob us of our livings, and carry five hundred and sixty fares daily from us."


Ever increasing increments of progress! 

It was a fine feeling indeed, George stepped out of the printers with a cheery gait.  Having finalised the last details for the exhibition's printed details, the artwork for which was all signed off, he could look forward to getting them off into the post tomorrow or if not the next day! Lady Habersham was certain to be equally as pleased…

Cheerily he waved out to a city carriage.



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If she had known she was going to make so many purchases, Anne-Elisabeth would have told her coach driver to accompany her to the shops and wait outside so that he could carry them for her. Now she and Bess were both loaded down with packages, full of ribbons, braids, and other trims to be used to add variety to her gowns so that they would look different each time she wore them, as well as other fripperies such as shoes (ordered earlier), hats, fans, parasols, and some jewelry.


Dressed in a violet gown trimmed with cornflower blue ruching and mauve fabric flowers, she struggled to keep the parcels balanced as she walked, her mauve cloak fanning out behind her. Unfortunately, one small oblong box slipped from the top and landed at the feet of a tall well-dressed gentleman.


“Forgive me, my lord,” she said.  "It didn't hit you, did it?"


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A lady in frills and finery dropped one of her parcels. Effortlessly bending George retrieved the item, a fan by the shape of it. "I think I shall survive." he replied with a cheerful spark in his eyes.  

"Might I assist you with your burdens to your carriage, you seem to be preparing for the apocalypse my lady – if only one might order extra hands as easily." she was plainly a woman of the quality, in fact, had he seen her at Chapel on Sunday?

He bowed, "Lord Chichester, at your service." And was ready to relieve her (and her maid) of some of their awkward parcels .

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Anne-Elisabeth had feared that the gentleman would be a bit annoyed at her clumsiness, but instead he seemed amused. “Excellent," she replied, grinning mischievously. “It would be rather embarrassing to be killed by a lady's fan.” She'd seen plenty of ladies swat gentlemen with their fans, but none of them had been fatal blows.


Whoever he was, he was both handsome and witty. How could she refuse his offer? “I appreciate your assistance. Even if hands could be bought, I would rather borrow them, especially when they belong to such a charming gentleman.


“And no, I'm not preparing for the apocalypse, just a season at court, though some people may think they're one and the same ... such as that fellow who was disgraced at the end of last year.” Court was, after all, the epitome of English society, and if you were exiled, it might as well be the end of the world.


Lord Chichester's bow was as elegant as his demeanor. “Delighted, Lord Chichester. I'm Anne-Elisabeth Devereux, the Countess of Cambray. And what services do you provide besides rescuing damsels in distress from the burden of too many packages?” She followed that question with a playful wink, so that he would know that she was only teasing him.


She was willing to let him to take any or all of the packages she was carrying and some of Bess' as well.


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“And risk breaking it’s ivory tines? Perish the thought! I would throw myself upon sword rather than bring damage to such a pretty thing!” George jested cheerily.  He was in very fine spirits feeling himself to have discovered a path forward in his life.

“Ah yes, and where does one stack extra hands when one is done with them?” He likewise found the ladies wit enjoyable to play off – it was an association greased by her costume being a rather exquisite composition also. George was very much a visual man.

Relieving the lady and her maid of a collection of boxes. “Quite so,” he grinned of court season and apocalypse.

“Which fellow was that?” he adjusted one of the parcels – usually he’d offer his arm for the gentlewoman for stroll upon , but under these circumstances every arm was required!  “But’s an interesting comparison, who might be Whitehall’s 'four horsemen' I wonder?  While 'the woman clothed with the sun' could only be one.”

“Enchanted, transfixed, etcetera etcetera etcetera.” The gent grinned at the pretty lady, who no doubt heard all the usual compliments dawn to dusk. “My other services include…” he paused momentarily and then claimed, “providing morning tea for parched lips.  You have been to the Tea House before? I  would be honoured if you would share a pot with me. Your maid too of course.”

Edited by George Hardwick III
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“Ahh, such a gallant you are!” Anne-Elisabeth exclaimed. His cheerfulness was enchanting, not to mention contagious. Has he just received good news, she wondered, or is he is one of those rare gentlemen with naturally upbeat personalities?


“I don't think storing them would be the problem,” she remarked about borrowed hands. “The challenge would be to keep them occupied when you weren't using them. If they got bored, they might rearrange all your belongings so that you could never find anything.”


The dark-eyed Countess sighed in relief as he took some of the packages from both Bess and herself. “His name was Danby, I believe. I don't know the whole story, but he did some terrible things that resulted in his entire family being cast out of court and dishonored. He would have been cast out too, but he was a coward and fled, leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves.” A nonchalant shrug. “He brought it all on himself, though, so he deserved it. I heard he even kidnapped some children. I wonder what possessed him to do a thing like that.”


As to the four horseman: “I have no idea. I'm not acquainted with many people yet and I'm still learning who is who and who did what. You probably have a better idea as to who would symbolize them than I do, though I suppose in a broad sense, France could be War.”


Was he complimenting her by comparing her to the 'Woman Clothed In The Sun' or was he thinking about his wife or his mistress, if he had either one or both? “And who do you think represents her best?” Like all ladies, Anne-Elisabeth loved to be flattered, but if he named someone else, she would not think less of him. They had only just met after all.


His grin was utterly disarming and she was pleased when he invited her for tea. “No, I haven't even heard of it before, but sharing tea with you would be lovely. Shall we take my purchases back to my carriage first?”


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He grinned at being called a gallant, his cheery mood seemed to be socially-pleasing. 

“Idle hands are the devils playthings.” George snappily defined the possible problem; theirs was a mock-religious conversation to be sure, and with a wink added, “You shall find no risk of any such mischief with mine.”

“Ack, and I knew that already.” He lamented his not catching on initially, “It’s a marvellous scandal don’t you think, and he fleeing from justice must be the most ignoble part of his tale.  The implied lack of faith in His Majesties justice, and of course everyone knows that innocent men do not run. I rather doubt there is any coming back from the brink for him this time.”

George was very pleased for drama’s such as Danby’s, those were the sort of things that made his own little ‘hiccups’ fade into unimportance. Who cared about a man who midst grief claimed he’d been the cause of his fiancés untimely death, when the Nations Lord Treasurer was openly villainous and abducting harmless Lordlings!

The Earls’s smile was particularly wide at this point.

The four horsemen.  “France as war you think, ack but carte blanche is so impersonal.  Id rather think our galloping riders that rent the seams of court to be more beautifully defined… who are those greats hmm? Avon is Master of the Horse, so he surely deserves a place. We’ve Lord Langdon who is regaled for equine feats. A Cavendish must factor in, their stables are legendary even if Young Henry is not yet as impressive.  And then…. Who could be our forth. Come, Lady Cambray, even one new to court must have a name upon her lips she could nominate?

The 'Woman Clothed In The Sun'.  “Why Her Royal Majesty Queen Karoline.” George was surprised she’d not guessed, and was unfortunately unaware that she’d hoped he’d meant her.  “We sit upon the crest of a new Dawn for all of England, and she shall bear the Sun that transforms night into day.”

She’d accepted his offer of tea, and he having nodded his agreement to the sensible plan of settling her goods to her carriage first, the pair then set on the short walk to the Teashop that was across the street and then down a little way  (& this time George was able to offer her his arm!)

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“Truer words were never spoken.” Anne-Elisabeth narrowed her dark eyes mischievously. “And I'm glad that you can keep yours to yourself for that saves your cheek from being slapped. I assure you that you will have no trouble with mine either.” If she thought that she didn't find Lord Chichester handsome, she would be lying to herself, but she felt no sexual attraction toward him at the moment. She was more excited by his upbeat attitude than the possibility of sharing his bed.


He agreed with her about Danby. She had never met the man herself, but after Nicci had told her of the scandal he had caused, she had made it her business to find out more. “No, innocent men do not flee, especially not from their King. He must have known that his crimes were so horrendous that His Majesty would show him no mercy. Maybe the worst ones have not yet been discovered.


“I feel sorry for his family, though, being dragged down with him when they themselves were innocent of any wrongdoing. However, they're lucky to be rid of him because he obviously cared nothing for them. I heard a rumor that his daughters are still at court living with some foreign Princess, but there might not be any truth in it.”


So Lord Chichester wasn't thinking of the four horsemen of court as their Biblical counterparts but as gentlemen who were renowned for their skill with horses. Anne-Elisabeth filed the names he had given her in her mind for future reference. If she met one of them, maybe they would agree to give her a few riding lessons so she would be ready for the upcoming competitions. The dull Lord Ogle could even be useful to her in that.


“I haven't met anyone who is exceptional at riding, but maybe the fourth horseman should be a foil to the other three. How about one of the Merry Gang … Rochester perhaps? Judging from his behavior at the New Year's Ball, he would ride his horse backwards.” She laughed as the image of him doing just that formed in her mind.


“Of course!” she exclaimed when Lord Chichester named the Queen as 'The Woman Clothed In The Sun.' “I should have known. Her Majesty is absolutely perfect for that role. Your insight is more brilliant than my own, my lord.” The young Countess wasn't at all disappointed that he had not been thinking of her, though she would have been flattered if he had.


By this time, they had reached her carriage and her driver, seeing them loaded down with packages, took some of them himself. It wasn't long before they were all safely stowed away and Anne-Elisabeth took the elegant Earl's arm as he led them to the tea shop. Bess followed behind them. “Your optimism is so refreshing,” she told him. “You must be enjoying the season immensely so far.”


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“I wonder if more shall come out at the next House of Lords.” George mused, his imagination captivated by the young ladies suggestion that the worst of Danby’s crimes were yet to be revealed.

Anne Elizabeth was not the first woman to feel as she did, nor did he feel aroused, though he did feel a pleasant sensation of protectiveness of the young lady at his escorting her.

“A foreign Princess?” He was less interested in the ruined family, but had not heard of a visiting dignitary.  ‘Now tell me more, what is her name, and why is she taking in strays. Is she perhaps distantly related?”

Yes George was speaking entirely light heartedly when he considered courts 4 horsemen.  She proposed Rochester as a fourth. “A-ha!” the Earl shook his head with amuse, “that is one man who is certain to turn anything into a mockery.”  Which as a comment could be taken however you liked it. positive or negatively.    

She approved of his choice with The Queen. “I am biased of course, she looked upon my sister with a kind grace and, it is my belief, that she was able to make such a fine marriage upon account of the Royal endorsement to her character.”  Karoline had been important in the Chichester past, and George hoped she would continue to be so in the future.  

Stowing the parcels in the carriage, George’s noble duty to lady was discharged, and now, his reward; a cup of tea in her company.  Carefully he navigated her across the street, avoiding a approaching waggon and walking around a pile of newspapers pending delivery. 

“Heavens, you are the first to have ever called me that.” George remarked with surprise, “but you are correct that I am in a mood quite buoyant. I have had a change in circumstances you see, after many years of darkness and despair, it is as though I have stepped out for the first time into sunlight. No doubt I shall return to a medium soon.”

He smiled, and stepping ahead of her he opened the door to the tea shop.

A little bell somewhere jingled.


OOC: do you want to find the loc post for us? 

Edited by George Hardwick III
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“I thought the next session was to be mostly about the war,” she mused. “But maybe you're right and more of his misdeeds will be divulged. Or perhaps he's finally turned up somewhere and will be brought back to face justice. I suppose we'll all soon find out. I am definitely going to attend tomorrow. It will be my first time.”


Anne-Elisabeth shrugged. “I don't know her name or where she's from. Supposedly she felt sorry for them because she was disgraced in her own country. Maybe she came to London because she's no longer welcome in her homeland. Or she may not even exist and Danby's daughters are off in the country somewhere. I don't have much faith in gossip, but I usually keep up with the latest rumors anyway. So far, I haven't heard anything about myself, either good or bad.”


She wasn't certain whether Lord Chichester approved or disapproved of her choice for the fourth horseman. He knew Rochester's reputation, though, and that he would not take his role seriously. "He would certainly liven things up," she remarked.  Was the Earl a libertine too, she wondered? 


Probably not, since his sister had most likely been a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. If Lord Chichester was influential enough to obtain a position for her, could he help the Countess as well? Did she even want to serve the Queen anymore? Becoming a part of the King's entourage was a more fitting place for a lady like her and she wouldn't have to pretend she was proper. “Your sister was a lucky young lady to become so close to Her Majesty. I'm sure she was envied by many.”


Lord Chichester was so gallant and very solicitous of her safety. Anne-Elisabeth found him quite fascinating, even more so when he revealed the reason for his cheerfulness. He was, in a way, a lot like her. “I know exactly what you mean. I was in a very dark place until recently.”


Her fingers unconsciously tightened upon his sleeve, a clear sign of her distress. “I grew up in Barbados and after I was married in the autumn of 1666, my family traveled here with me to see me settled in. Unfortunately our ship wrecked in a storm and I was the only survivor. I lost my husband, my parents, my brother, and a couple of cousins all in one day. As you can imagine, I was devastated and I felt guilty that I had lived and they had died.


To add to my grief, I lived with my mother-in-law while I recovered from my injuries. The two of us were complete strangers and I think she blamed me for her son's death. After all, if he had not traveled to Barbados and married me, he would have not perished in a shipwreck. I was in deep emotional pain for over a year and then I decided to come to court. My lord husband had promised to take me and I knew that he wouldn't want me to mourn for him forever, but to live my life to the fullest.


“I arrived shortly before the new year, and I felt much as you do now. Suddenly, my whole life was ahead of me and I felt that I could finally make a new life for myself. It was as if the sun had emerged from behind the darkest cloud and I could finally breathe again. I still feel as if I am soaring on the wings of opportunity.”


They reached the tea shop and Anne-Elisabeth stepped inside when Lord Chichester opened the door for her.




Lady Alyth's Fine Tea Shop


Located on west end of the Strand, the shop has a large picture window overlooking the street, allowing in the light. The window is framed with lace curtains, pulled back with velvet pulls. Over the door is a wooden sign with the name of the shop, done in script, with a picture of a tea cup with a scone next to it. The door opens to a wide shop front, 6 tables set around, with varying chair combinations from two to six, though they can be pulled together for larger parties if needed. Another area is set aside to store packages for ladies who have been shopping. In the back is the kitchen, from where the smell of the various baked items waft to tempt everyone. Two counters line either side of the front of the shop, one with baked goods, the other with the various types of tea that can be combined for personal flavors. Also, the various medicinal items supplied by Dr. Winchester sit here.


The walls are done in light cream on top and sapphire blue under the chair board, which is varnished in a deep chestnut. The tables are set with white linen table clothes, the chairs painted cream with sapphire blue cushions. Another room, set in the back, is kept separate. Lady Alyth has turned this into a private room for rent.




“I'm sorry,” she said as she looked around the shop, taking everything in. “That's probably much more than you ever wanted to know about me and I hope it didn't ruin your mood.” She grinned disarmingly.  "Actually, it seems that we both have much to celebrate, and what better way than with a cup of tea and some delicious pastries?”


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“Bring a cushion.” George gave her some excellent advice with a wink.   The lengthy sessions of the house turned even the most seasoned politician’s bums numb!

His expressed interest in the Princess was an empty well, unfortunately Lady Cambray had little knowledge of the woman. “I shall make some of my own inquiries then.” The Earl resolved, “Your unwillingness to believe everything you hear does you credit, though the gossips are often enough astute; they are like seaguss that circle waters, telling fishermen where to set their net.  But usually people simply do not bother to look into anything more deeply.  It is the plague of society that most exist contentedly in a superficiality.  Scratch beneath the surface, and what shall be found? I dare say very little is truly as it seems.”

Might AE be correct and the Princess was outcast? George reminded of another woman who’d exited her country under a question mark, one who’d gone on to marry an Englishman, and now served in the highest position possible for a woman in England.  Not that George was currently in a rush to marry, but if a foreign Princess was available. Well.

“Hmm.” He’d not really meant to bring up his sister, the murderer of his fiancé who was loved by all at court. He moved past the topic, and hoped she’d not press for more.

They discovered a point in common, a dark past that had consumed.  He nodded quietly of her tale, and explained of his own, “I lost my fiancé to a… unexplained death, that was nearly two years ago now."  It would be two years since her first death on the 20th of this month, and on the 26th her second.   

The sober topic reduced the gentleman’s mood – as was always the case when he reminisced the wild-haired Wilhelmina.  It had taken him a long time to realise that he’d actually loved her.  (which brought on a whole other level of confusing emotions, questioning his own existence, who it was and what he valued)

“In the end, I think, grief does not pass, but we can adapt to live with the pain of loss. Managing somehow to accept it and yet still feel the warmth of the sun on your cheek. To be able to turn from the pull of emotion that lost-love would have us fixate upon, is certainly not easy to do.”  He gave her a small smile then, “You are doing very well.”

And here they were at the tearoom…

Opening the door he saw her in first: ah, the fragrance of fresh baking was divine.  Looking about allowed the lady to choose her preferred table, and moved to assist her with her chair before he took the one opposite.   "No need to appolgise, I am honored that you felt comfortable in my company to share such a personal tale."  said he.  

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“Thanks for the advice.” Anne-Elisbeth grinned. “Should I bring some snacks too? And maybe a bottle of my famous coconut rum?” It wasn't quite famous yet, but she hoped that one day it would be and she could profit from the sale of it. The young Countess was always looking for investment opportunities.


She had not expected Lord Chichester to speak of his own grief, but she was pleased that he did. “I'm sorry for your loss,” she said softly. “You are right. The grief never really leaves us, but I hope that it lessens with time. Sometimes I feel remorse for enjoying myself, knowing that my family is gone forever. But I try to remind myself that they would want me to be happy and to learn to live without them. And in a way, they are always with me.” She placed one hand upon her heart. “Right here.”


His smile, as slight as it was, seemed to light up her world. “Thank you, my lord. You are doing quite well yourself.”


Now that she knew that he was not sorry that she had told him about her depressing past, she could relax and enjoy the delectable aromas wafting through the air in the tea shop. Her stomach rumbled. She would definitely be having more than just a cup of tea. Hoping that Lord Chichester had not heard, Anne-Elisabeth chose a sun-drenched table by a window, sitting down when the elegant Earl pulled out a chair for her. “And I am pleased that you trusted me as well. I think we are quite alike, you and I. Kindred spirits if you will.”


She grinned playfully. “Now I wonder if we share the same tastes in tea and sweets.”


Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux
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“Ha! I would warn against that Lady Cambray, it is a location of solemnity, you would not want to slight England’s peers with an implication that they are a sideshow.” He laughed saying it, but his advice was in earnest.  

Her comment of holding lost loved ones in ones heart was a gentle and very womanly sentiment.  He smiled of it though the advice did not, could not apply to him.  Perhaps that was where some of his angst came from, for in discovering he’d loved Mina, he knew he had no right to hold her memory dear still.  It had been his blade that delivered the final blow.  How did Mina, up in heaven, consider him.

It still cut him up if he thought about it for any length of time.

But these days he had a brightness that had lifted his eyes above the gloom.  “Thankyou.” He replied to her compliment, then indulged himself in explaining how that was!  After seeing her seated, and then himself also, he spoke on.

“The catalyst of my turnaround is nephew, who has fallen into my care after the death of his parents. He is bright of eyes and clear of brow, with just nothing but opportunity awaiting his future.  It is he that has opened my eyes to see a future bright also.  Who would have thought an infant of 10 months might achieve that which I’d have thought impossible!”

The teahouse’s staff were ever attentive, a waited patiently while his companion turned the selection of tea and treats into a game.   ”Aha?” George gave an quizzical partly amused smile, not certain how this game should be played?  “Ladies first.” He thought to first observe.

Edited by George Hardwick III
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Yet another mistake avoided. “Your advice is appreciated and I promise I will heed it.” It seemed odd to Anne-Elisabeth that one was expected to sit for hours listening to gentlemen drone on and on about war without any refreshment. Didn't the speakers' mouths become dry? Maybe there were breaks for those who needed sustenance. Ahh well, she supposed she would find out tomorrow.


So it was Lord Chichester's baby nephew who had brought him out of mourning for his lost fiancee. With a child to raise, he could focus on new opportunities and finally let go of the past. Anne-Elisabeth couldn't stand babies herself, and if a relative's child fell into her lap, she would see it as a portent of doom. Off to the country it would go and she would forget all about it.


But the intriguing Earl had learned to live again because of a child. To each his or her own. “It sounds as if your life has found new purpose. Your nephew is lucky to have such a loving uncle who cares for him so much.”


Lady Cambray was unaware that Lord Chichester thought she was making a game of their choices in tea and sweets. She was simply curious as to whether their tastes in nourishment were as similar as their life stories. It was easy to select a tea. She picked one of the more exotic varieties that she had never tried.


As for baked goods: “Pies and pastries are rather rare in Barbados. We don't even ask our servants to bake in such heat. We usually have fresh fruit for dessert. Bananas, coconuts, and mangoes are more commonplace than apples there, and since coming to England, I developed a liking for apple tarts.” She looked over at her charming companion. “That is what I will have unless you would like to suggest something else.  I do adore trying new things."


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“Precisely.” He agreed, “I intend to find out if he might become heir of all Chichester, in the very least I have an appointment with my lawyer to redo my will that he is the sole benefactor of all my worldly goods. He shall never want for anything.” George was very happy to say.

Being a woman, Anne Elizabeth would not realise just how great a burden it was upon a male to think of future generation with regard the family legacy.  Little Whitgrove solved so many of Georges frustrations in that regard.

Unbuttoning his jacket for ease of sitting, George looked around the room. It had changed very little since his last visit here.   “The apple tart sounds lovely.” George was not much of a foodie, he usually just ate what appeared in front of him.  “With sweet cream?” was his eyebrow-risen suggestion.

“I would usualy drink a coffee with a dash of liqueor.” He said when it came to drinks.

She had shared information on Barbados foods, and so now George thought to give her some background on England’s drinks.

“Here in England Coffee is quite the thing for us men, we have entire houses devoted to them, ‘men only’ of course. Meanwhile there are ladies groups that protest against them quite adamantly, why last year, or was it the before that, there was even a tract scattered all about London broadcasting the Evils of coffee houses.   In fact, it may have been just after that, that Lady Alyth responded with the innovation of this here Tea House. The very first of it’s kind in England I believe.”

Looking to the servant he cheerily mused, “I'll have a cup of strong tea miss,  and you can tell your cook that you've saved my soul from the evils of frequenting coffee house!” he gave a laugh. 

Edited by George Hardwick III
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Anne-Elisabeth wondered why Lord Chichester wanted his nephew to become his heir. Didn't he want his own child to succeed him? It would be difficult to find a wife who didn't wish for her own child to inherit her husband's title. If she ever did marry again, she would want that as well. It wasn't as if she would have to raise her son herself. Maybe the Earl was hoping for that very outcome. She could imagine that ambitious young ladies threw themselves at him all the time. Not only was he high in status but he was handsome as well. He was prime marriage material, much as her own Arthur had been.  Maybe he ... like herself ... was not the marrying kind.


“Is there any other way?” the Countess asked with a grin when he suggested that her apple tart be topped with cream. He at least seemed to share her taste in desserts. And drink? Maybe. “I tried coffee in Barbados. It's quite tasty, but give me a choice between coffee and tea, and I'll choose tea every time. There are so many different varieties that you'll never become bored .” Maybe there was more than one form of coffee as well, but she wasn't certain if that was the case.


“Make mine strong too,” she told the serving girl. After she had gone, she lifted curious dark eyes to her charming companion. “Why are only men allowed in coffee houses? Maybe ladies see them as evil because they're not welcome. If they were open to everyone, there might be no more objections against them.” Anne-Elisabeth knew she wanted to go to one now and see what went on for herself … dressed in her male disguise, of course.


Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux
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This easy speaking man would have happily answered her questions on that and more, had he any idea that she was mentally unsatisfied, left wondering.  For of course he’d have preferred his own heir of flesh and blood, certainly he’d sought a bride for some years now!  But neither were forthcoming. He was not sure why, but he was not on any of the matchmakers lists, nor had he caught notice of any fathers of daughters (or at least not with a favourable response!) 

“As long as it’s the black tea, I have found my taste buds quite versatile. But the green, well, that is a different thing entirely. I’d rather drink steeped grass!” he declared with a cheery laugh.

“It is not the coffee that women are discouraged from.” The servant having set off to make up their order, George settled to his chair properly and turned to answer his companions gentle inquiry.  “The groups that really against would have one think that it is the beverage itself that is the tip of slippery slide into decay.  Nonsense of course.  The coffeehouses are male only venues for the purposes of undistracted talk of business and politics. Stout and sturdy subjects that we men have great fascinations for; and for which we require a location to be free to speak within with untempered passion. 

“Were women present, we would be minding our p’s and q’s, or likely having to talk on subjects of their interest.  We’ve all heard the manner of topics that ladies delight upon in their sewing circles. Well there is no place for that at  Coffee house! Ha! 

“Coffeehouses are the places for cutting edge conversations on the very edge of the news, trail blazing into new business innovations, the making of deals and the signing of contracts.” the explained, and with a chuckle added, "It's not at all uncommon for eruptions into fisticuffs, with vile slander hurled across the room!  Heh heh.  Yet then exiting into the bright of day propriety and dignity are back upon us, and we may carry on without grudges etcetera formed. It is business. It is politics.”

“You shall see for yourself a tempered taste of the sort of thing when you attend the house of lords, which is something of a refined version of political conversations.”  Women interested in politics were allowed or even encouraged to attend the Lords in audience.


Edited by George Hardwick III
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“That's one thing we'll have to disagree on,” Anne-Elisabeth remarked. “I like green tea. It has a light and refreshing taste and reminds me a bit of the tropics. If you prefer coffee, though, I can see why you don't enjoy it.”


She laughed when Lord Chichester said that most women thought that coffee was the root of all evil. “Absurd,” she agreed. “Alcohol is more likely to lead a man into temptations he cannot resist.” His explanation as to why ladies were not allowed in coffee houses was quite enlightening. Of course, gentlemen needed places where they could go without having to worry about boring or shocking their wives, mothers, sisters, and sweethearts.


She knew for a fact now that she wanted to visit one herself and perhaps become accepted among the men as one of them. Who knew? A trip to a coffee house might provide those business opportunities she was seeking. Perhaps she would have to have a more lavish suit made for her. Her current male attire was that of a commoner. She needed to hone her knowledge of politics and current events too so that she could hold her own in a debate.


Would her fascinating companion approve of her intentions or was he a typical nobleman who believed that a lady should not aspire to more than having children, managing a household, and submitting to her husband in bed. “You men aren't the only ones who have no taste for sewing circle conversation,” she said, testing the waters. “I avoid those gatherings like the plague. Who wants to hear about how perfect one's grandchildren are, the problems one is having with one's servants, or how uncouth and unfashionable one's enemy is?"


She dared to roll her eyes. “It's all utter foolishness. Your coffee houses sound much more exciting. I am interested in politics and business myself and I really look forward to tomorrow's session. News trickles slowly to Barbados and there are large gaps in my knowledge which I hope to fill by listening to the issues discussed there. I imagine that it will mostly be about the war with the French, something else I know little of. In Barbados, most of our threats are from pirates.


“But back to the coffee house problem, has anyone tried to explain what goes on there the way you just explained it to me? Ladies might stop protesting if they knew that it was just a place for men to gather and talk about things that wouldn't interest them anyway.”


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“Ah, so it is for You that these tea merchants are importing it.” He claimed with a wink.

And so there they sat, sipping their tea and discussing the cities coffeehouses (the comparison with ladies sewing circles was vast!)  “That would be the reason I’ve never taken up embroidery.” George replied restraining a laugh.  It felt good to be in good cheer, in fact, he was beyond mere good cheer. He might be the happiest he’d ever been in his life.

“Ah, then I would recommend to you to visit the House of Lords outside of it’s usual session times, and read the books of minutes of past sessions. I have been doing so myself in fact, it is thoroughly educational. You might learn a great deal Lady Cambray, and without the risk of being knocked out by a flying coffeepot.”

She asked if anyone had explained things to those women’s protest groups.  “Ah, well it is rather more complex than that.  It is politics you see, where nothing is what it initially seems.” Dropping his voice he glanced to the side, checking nobody would overhear him as he leaned forward to explain. “You see it suits our Royal Majesty to at times close down those Coffeeshops, such as back in 75.  The Coffeehouses are at times brewing houses of more than beans, many a controversial political item has begun there.  Ideas and plans that might not suit the crown at all. Ideas that he might not want to make it as far as the House of Lords.  So do you see, those protestors foolish ideas are most likely encouraged by men in His Majesties service that desire support at any given moment to close down the coffee houses again.”

He leaned back, it might be too much for a womans mind to comprehend – but the Earl of Chichester was next to certain that the funds for the printing of that ’75 flier against coffeehouses had come from the Crown.  (It had been just too convenient for it not to be.)

Edited by George Hardwick III
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“Oh yes,” she teased back. “Only for me. I have them wrapped around my little finger.” For emphasis, she raised one beautifully manicured digit and playfully swept it through the air.


Anne-Elisabeth didn't bother holding back her own laughter. “You'd probably be better at embroidery than I am. If you ever want to learn, don't ask me to teach you. I'm dreadful at it myself, always pricking my finger and getting blood all over my work. As a child, my lack of sewing skills caused my governess endless frustration. My tutors, however, were quite pleased with my understanding of academic subjects. Restrictions on what women are allowed to learn are rather relaxed in Barbados and my father denied me nothing.”


Lord Chichester surprised her by not condemning her interest in politics but encouraging it. Her eyes widened and enthusiasm gleamed in her golden-brown eyes. “I didn't know it was open all the time. That sounds like an excellent way to fill the gaps in my knowledge and expand upon it.” Her grin was mischievous. “I might be safe from flying coffeepots there, but will I be safe from flying tomes hurled by gentleman who are offended by a lady's presence in a realm frequented nearly exclusively by men?”


The Countess noticed how he glanced around him as if afraid that someone might hear what he planned to tell her, and she leaned as far toward him as the table between them would allow. “Ohhhh,” she breathed when the Earl had finished. “How clever of His Majesty to use his subjects for his own ends, and he is entirely within his rights to do so. Those ladies probably have no idea of the service they provide for their King.


“Yet the coffee houses eventually reopen, do they not? What stops the same thing from happening again?”

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As a Liberal man (with ideals rather more aligned with the Country Party – rights for the people and so on) George was rather more open minded on many a topic than most of his peers.  He was not aghast at all that The Countess before him was a keen student of weightier topics, though he’d not have guessed it if she had not specifically told him.  Her nature seemed too effervescent to staunch with books.

“A pity you never met my sister then, she was a patroness to the sciences.” Modestly he did not reveal that had been at his funding and behest.

She made a good point then.  “Ah.” George frowned and rubbed his chin.  “You are right milady.  Forgive me my male oversight, it’s quite unlikely indeed that you would gain admission into The House of Lords library to read.  Please forgive me, I do not mean to place such an informational jewel before you as an impossibility that you might never reach.  I suppose all that can be done, is for your attention to be unwavering at tomorrows session.  That from here on out you shall construct your own mental record of the controversies of the day, and who takes what standpoint.”

He revealed what he believed was an intrigue behind the protestors of coffeehouses, and their closure from time to time. From doing so, the Countess correctly guessed the position that now stood.  


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  • 2 weeks later...

Lord Chichester didn't seem a bit appalled that her education had been unconventional. He was more liberally-minded than most. Ahh, so his sister was interested in science as well. Since women had no money of their own, either he or their father must have allowed her to do it. It was so refreshing to meet a gentleman who appreciated intelligent and knowledgeable ladies.


“I think she and I would have gotten along quite well. I wish to do much the same thing when I become better known around court. I would especially like to encourage women who are interested in the sciences. I doubt there are many, but those who are shouldn't have to hide their interests because such things are considered unseemly for our gender. One can be a perfect wife and mother and still exercise her mind.”


Unfortunately, she was right and ladies weren't allowed to roam the halls of the House of Lords when it wasn't in session. She could always go there disguised as a man, but perhaps not as the author of a bawdy book. Another male persona could easily be invented … a nobleman with a blond periwig, perhaps. She had often wondered what she would look like with blonde hair. There was a more pleasant solution, though.


“What if a gentleman escorted me?” Her smile was charming but a bit sly. “One who also likes to study the books of minutes. Do you think I would be allowed in if I can find such an intelligent and compatible fellow?”


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"A word of advice, let someone else head your little science club." Advised the Earl, who while broadminded appreciated that the current fashion was not for ladies  learning.  There was likly to be a stir if such a thing was to start up.  "Let some other take the social flack, while you retain control in the background. Ready to step in if, no, when it becomes a success."

It was an enjoyable conversation, going to topics far more diverse than he'd expected while sipping their drinks and enjoying freshly baked goods.  George was enjoying company and food heartily, and when done even ordered more of the apple pie to take home. He might even take her home too, for such interesting conversation. 

When finally she dropped a very obvious hint he laughed heartily.  "You must work upon cloaking your transparency Lady Cambray, I can see quite thru you!" 

"Alas, I am not the man you need to goad. I am... reforming,  and as such would not want to do anything that might raise an eyebrow in my direction, certainly not to break the Rules of parliment." he explained.  "You might have better luck asking just anyone in London than I."  he finished his coffee and gave a small shrug.  "But if you like, I shall loan you my notes."  




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“Sage advice indeed,” Anne-Elisabeth agreed. “I should find a gentleman who is sympathetic to my cause to lead it. I'm too new to court to cause that kind of stir. I can back it, though, and … as you said … take over when the notion of women in science is no longer such a scandalous concept. Hopefully, that won't take long.”


She favored him with a cheerful smile. “And thank you for having so much faith in my success.” Why his compliment should mean so much to her, she had no idea. Perhaps it was because she genuinely liked Lord Chichester and actually cared what he thought of her. Their discussion was stimulating and  she found him fascinating in a purely platonic way. The last bite of apple tart brought a tinge of regret with it, for this lovely interlude would soon come to an end.


Will we ever get to converse like this again or will become just two acquaintances that nod to each other from across a crowded room?  I do no think that I could bear the latter.


“Perhaps  that was my intention, my lord,” she revealed with a grin. “But I perfectly understand why you cannot oblige me. I would never forgive myself if your good name suffered because of me. Do you know of a gentleman who would be willing to take the risk?


“And yes, I would love to borrow your notes. I promise I shall not keep them long.”


Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux
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"Oh, I thought you were speaking of a womans club. Let me then retract comment, if it is mixed group then what outcry could there be. You must carry on with your original vision. Forgive my theoretic interference please."

"I do not. Hmm, that said, I would think the Lord Chancellor may escort whomever he likes there freely."

"After this weeks session then. I could deliver them personally, perhaps on Wednesday."  He would not risk them being lost by some messenger boy.  Assisting her up from her chair, he added, "that is, if requesting your address is not to bold a thing to ask?"

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“I envision men and women working side by side to discover and invent new things that will further the cause of science and make the world a better place. I suspect that I am a woman ahead of my time and my vision won't be realized in my own lifetime, but who knows? Now that you mentioned it, though, I do think a gentleman needs to be involved, one with the means and influence that I currently lack. Perhaps with a bit of luck and dauntless perseverance, I shall find him. I really don't think enough women will come forward to start a club. It will take some time for them to find the courage to defy the rules they have been taught to live by.”


The Lord Chancellor? Didn't he own the desk that Anne-Elisabeth and Dorset had defiled at the New Years Eve ball? Or was she mistaken? “I shall contrive to meet him then. I have no idea what he looks like but I suppose I shall see him at Lords.” And by watching him, she would be able to figure out what sort of man he was and what kind of charm would work best on him.


Wednesday! He did want to see her again, and so soon! The young Countess could not contain her grin as he helped her from her chair. “Wednesday will be fine, and no, I have absolutely no qualms about giving you my address. I would not say the same for most of the other gentlemen I have met at court.” She hoped he knew how much he had impressed her. “I live at 41 Piccadilly Street. If you have some time to spare, I'll show you the garden. It's quite unique and it was the main reason I fell in love with the house.”


Anne-Elisabeth would have liked to invite him to dinner, but she didn't want him to get the wrong idea about her.


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George nodded to her vision, it was noble minded albeit controversial. There already existed such a place of science, founded by His Majesty in the year of the restoration, explorers of natural science bettering the world. But no women were allowed.  Could she raise a unisex group to rival it, it would be equivalent to the whigs versus royalists but on a scientific level. Possible he supposed  Time would tell. 

"You shall pick him out easily, he is The Chairman for parliaments sessions." Replied he. Having never met the Chancellor himself, George could not offer to introduce. Truth be  George had a very limited circle, due in part to his shaded history.


He smiled, pausing briefly to pass the waitstaff his card. Discretely a bill would be sent to his address  (no need to fuss filthy lucre before his gentle companion!), before he moved to assist Anne Elizabeth with her with her chair. 

"I shall be occupied mostpart during the day, at Her Majesties Presence room." Which sounded far more important than it was, as he was merely waiting to be granted an audience. Sometimes such things took weeks he had heard. He had time. A life time really.  "So perhaps after four?"

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Anne-Elisabeth wasn't sure if Lord Chichester's nod meant he approved of her plans or agreed that nothing much would come of them in her lifetime. He said nothing against it, though, and she knew now how open-minded he was. Maybe in the future when he had mended his reputation, he would wish to become involved. Idly, she wondered why he had fallen out of favor. It couldn't have been because his fiancee had passed away. People died all the time.


“Oh? Then I won't be able to miss him.” And she could watch him closely and figure out how best to meet him. Her enchanting companion did not offer to introduce them. Were they not acquainted or did the Lord Chancellor have a grudge against him for some reason? She couldn't imagine the cheerful Earl vexing anybody, but she had not known him during the dark period he had spoken of.


Not only did Lord Chichester want to see her again, but he seemed to enjoy the notion of sharing a walk in her garden. Anne-Elisabeth waited as he paid for their refreshments, ready to leave whenever he was. One eyebrow quirked upward when he told her where he would be on Wednesday. He must have an audience with the Queen. Most gentlemen prefer to socialize in the King's Presence Chamber, not the Queen's.


“After four is perfect.” She would have her cook prepare a special meal in case she could persuade him to stay for dinner. Cocking her head to the side, she gazed up at him. “Do you have time to escort me back to my carriage? Unless your own is waiting for you, I can drop you off at your residence before heading home.”


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With a ‘date’ set, George felt rather pleased with himself, the cheery jingling of the shops bell as they then exited was an apt tone.  

“And leave you to stroll unescorted, perish the thought! Who knows what additional purchases you may along the way that might need my assistance to carry.” he made a jest with the offering of arm to her for the walk back to her carriage.

“Though I do indeed have my own transport not so far away, so do not need take you up on the kind offer of a ride.”

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Anne-Elisabeth barely heard the tinkling of the bell. After blinking a few times to adjust to the sunlight, she thought that the world seemed a bit brighter now that the charming Lord Chichester had entered her life. Wednesday couldn't come soon enough, as far as she was concerned.


Chuckling, she took his arm. “I think I have bought enough today. My carriage is full with packages already. I will rely on you, my gallant knight, to rescue me from any intriguing items that try to lure me into stepping toward a shop.”


She sighed inwardly when he said his own coach was nearby. “I was rather hoping to continue our conversation on the way home, but there will be plenty to talk about on Wednesday, including the results of the House of Lords. We will surely see each other there.” She winked playfully. “If our paths do not cross, I shall wave at you from across the room.”


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