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Rhapsody In Rose | 5th April Evening. public event, open to all

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Scarlet Drawing Room

 

The Scarlet Drawing Room was in an out of the way location in Whitehall, quite near the Royal Quarters. It had also been dubbed the Restoration Drawing Room for it was here that Charles I met with Edward Hyde and his Privy Council members when he returned to London. Its use by the King has been largely forgotten, as Charles preferred other drawing rooms closer to his bedchamber. Although open to the public, it was hard to find and, therefore, favoured by those who enjoyed the King's favour and knew of its whereabouts high up in a tower of the palace.

 

The walls of the drawing room are draped in red silk. A portrait of the King, painted in the month of his restoration, hangs prominently on the wall. Windows present a glorious view of St. James' Park to the west. A large dining table rests in the centre of this modestly sized room.

 

The first thing one would notice when entering the drawing room was the sweet fragrance of roses. Vases containing blooms in different colors had been set on small tables here and there. The dining table had been removed, replaced by rows of fine wooded chairs upholstered in gold brocade. Upon the seat of each chair lay a single crimson rose that echoed the color scheme of the room. The thorns had  been removed.

 

At the front of the room was a raised platform (the same one that had been used at the party last season at the Spanish Embassy). The pianoforte from the Music Room sat in one corner. The rest of the makeshift stage was bare. There were serving tables sat against the wall offering an assortment of drinks and hors d'oeuvre, both savory and sweet. Four servants roamed the room with trays full of one or the other and a group of musicians provided by Master Staggins played in the background.

 

Neither of the performers had yet arrived.

 

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     Henry arrived early. So far, the day had been exhausting to him, and he feared that if he went to the Inn to rest he was going to fall asleep and not make it to the event or the dinner afterwards. So, his outfit was the same he wore to the House of Lords: black brocade breeches, a dove grey silk waistcoat, and a plum brocade justeaucorps that had been trimmed and threaded in a motif of small silver lions of England, with buttons made of grey mother of pearl. To those were added white silk stockings, shirt and frothy cravat, black leather shoes with shiny silver buckles, and his ebony walking stick with a cube-shaped silver head. A breast pendant in sequile style, with rose-cut diamonds and blue and white enamel set on silver provided the final touch. The baron looked very different from the way he looked when Sophia had met him, courtesy of Mr. Maisoniere, the sartorial miracle worker.

     As he entered, Lord Grey breathed in the flowery scent, and his eyes opened wide with the pleasurable surprise. He then noticed the other arrangements and smiled approvingly. Every detail has been considered, and everything is elegant, restrained. I do not doubt Lady Toledo’s event will be a success. He called for the attention of a servant, and requested a Spanish brandy from Xerez, which was readily provided. Delicious, he mused after sampling. And much more appropriate than my usual French brandy of choice in these interesting times.

     Henry then noticed Sophia and Esteban and smiled in their direction, raising his glass in a silent salute. He would not approach unless invited to do so and would take a seat in the back instead, but if beckoned, he would approach immediately and bow formally, hoping that Lady Sophia would make the proper introductions.

     This has been a rather eventful day, and it isn’t over yet. God, have mercy! I can’t party all night like I used to when I was a student! The memories of that time made him smile with longing.

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After returning to her room to check on both her pet and her maid, Grace ad changed into a more evening appropriate gown of malachite green, with white lace ruffle around the neckline to the sleeves, which were tight against her upper arms to fall into a wider bell at the elbows.  The bodice was tightly fitted, with spring green bows running down the center and a full skirt.  Her blond hair was done up in a coronet around her head with similar bows holding her hair in place.  Simple pearls dangled from her ears and around her neck and wrist. 

Stopping just outside the door, she once again practiced her breathing technique to calm her down.  She wasn't even the one performing tonight.  Well, not an instrument.  She would be performing the role of calm, collected sister of a viscount tonight.  Fingers metaphorically crossed.  She moved to step into the room and greet her first real acquaintance here. 

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Posted (edited)

Sophia immediately noticed Lord Grey as he entered the drawing room, and when he raised his glass to her, she grinned and beckoned him over. She was very pleased to see him and now would be the perfect time to introduce him to Esteban, as he had told her that he would like to meet the Spanish Ambassador. She also saw Mistress Preston step inside, and beckoned her over as well.

 

Edited by Sophia de la Cerda

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Caroline entered the drawing room, still carrying her cello case having gruffly refused a servant's offer to carry it for her. She was not trusting her beloved instrument to some addled brained lad. One collision or drop could certainly effect the delicate instrument. And this, not jewels nor even property, was her most treasured possession. Now when it came to clothing,  the young woman was on the rather frugal side. She did not spend all that much money on clothes, which would be required if she wished to be one of those who constantly was updating their wardrobe. There were those in court who never wanted to be seen in the same gown more than once. That was not Caroline though. For this event she wore the same fine outfit she had at the opera some months earlier. It was expensive, she looked good in it, and she highly doubted anyone would even remember what she wore that particular night. Especially not the men, most of whom had never taken their eyes off of Sophia's bosom. Not that flat chested Caroline was bitter, oh no, not her.

The earrings were the same too but one thing was new, the exquisite necklace she had been presented with recently from her father. It wasn't that it was all that expensive but that it used to belong to her beloved mother. That made it worth a fortune in her eyes.

Looking around to see who had arrived thus far, she immediately spotted tonight's star performer, Sophia, who looked absolutely spectacular as always. Oh and then her Spaniard husband, Caroline had all she could do to hide her disgust. However she steeled herself with a big smile and confidently headed their way. The couple were already with a few early arrivals, neither of whom she knew at least by face. At least they didn't look to be Spaniards, thank God.

 

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Henry smiled back at Sophia and was about to star walking her way when Grace stepped into the Scarlet Drawing Room. This last looked finely attired, and her pearls were discrete, elegant. You can never go wrong with pearls, the baron thought. Not having been introduced before, he usually would not have dared address the new arrival directly but, on a whim, decided to against convention. Propriety will have to suffer a bit tonight, he thought. “Henry, Lord Grey, at your service. Please forgive my being so forward as to introduce myself”, he said with a formal bow. Of course, he would kiss a hand if offered.

After straightening, he offered his arm to the young lady, so that she would not have to enter the room unescorted. Whether the arm was accepted or not, he then approached Esteban and Sophia, and bowed formally to them. He would wait until the hostess addressed him before speaking.

As he bowed to the pair, out of the corner of the eye he saw another young lady (Caroline) entering the room, that one carrying a cello case that was almost as tall as she was. Had he arrived but a few minutes later, he would have volunteered to carry it for her. Perhaps I could still offer my help after we greets our guests.

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So intent on Sophia, Grace didn't hear the approach of Henry, but contained her surprise.  Those male relatives of hers had at least taught her to always act as if she were never startled.  Turning a smile on to her lips, mentally she reminded herself to breathe before answering.  "Good evening, milord.  A pleasure to make your acquaintance.  Miss Grace Preston, sister of Viscount Truxton," she said, offering her hand as her mother taught her.  The only break in her calm appearance would be the red blush brightening her cheeks.  An actual nobleman!  And not one her brothers introduced her to, then decided he wasn't a good enough match for her.  How many times had she heard one or another of her brothers or uncles talking private (not that she was eavesdropping) about how this one wouldn't do because of the mistress in Brighton or the gambling debts or that time at Oxford when they caught him with one of the male servants?

Taking the offered arm, "There's nothing to forgive.  I greatly appreciate your offer of introduction, in fact.  I don't know anyone in London, save Lady Sophia and I just met her a few hours ago and wouldn't want to presume on such short acquaintance to have her introduce me to everyone.  She's got enough on her plate, I would imagine."  And there went the rambling.  Mentally, she slapped her forehead, but continued with her calm outward appearance.  She noted the other lady (Caroline) entering, carrying her own cello case.  She quite understood the need to keep one's instrument out of anyone else's hands.  You never knew what they might do.  She smiled at the lady and nodded in understanding before turning her attention back to Sophia and the man who must be her husband.

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Esteban was dressed in a rich burgundy jacket.  Karl was left outside in the hallway to provide security if it were needed.  Diego was in the room, dressed as a servant and was busily seeming to straighten things while listening to what was transpiring.  Maria had come as well, in a conservative gown of blue with black brocade.  She had come to watch her sister-in-law sing and to observe events as well.  Esteban had become more paranoid of late about plots at court involving himself or Sophia. 

Maria, being a homely woman and unable to speak, preferred to blend into the background, as did Diego.  She begged off to obtain a drink.  She wished to spare her brother the many introductions and explanations that she was mute.

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Sophia noted the interaction between Lord Grey and Mistress Preston. Either they had already met, or they had just introduced themselves to each other. She also saw Caroline enter with her cello case and stroll toward them. Maria moved off, probably to spy like Diego, whom she had noticed as she entered. This was not a Spanish event, but useful information could be found anywhere. She was unaware of any plots against her husband or herself. Considering her condition, that was most likely a good thing.

 

“Lord Grey, Mistress Preston, I'm so glad you came,” she enthused. “I would like to introduce you to my husband, His Excellency Lord Toledo, Spain's Ambassador to England. My lord husband, this is Lord Grey, whom I met in the Music Room a few days ago. I met Mistress Preston in the same place only today.”

 

Beckoning to Caroline, she continued: “And this is the lady I will be performing with tonight. She is a brilliant cello player and was chosen to play in the opera's orchestra last season. Lady Kendishall, this is my husband, Lord Toledo, and these two are Lord Grey and Mistress Preston. You might be interested to know that Mistress Preston shares our love of music and plays the violin.”

 

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Posted (edited)

Just as Caroline joined them then, Sophia commenced with the introductions, quite helpful of her really. Caroline nodded to each of them, waiting to see if Lord Gray would wish to take her hand for a polite kiss. (Which she would not resist).

"My lord, my lady, honored to make your acquaintance. And another musician amongst us? Excellent!"

"And Lady Toledo you are too kind," she appreciated the musical compliment by her friend.

Now as for her Spanish husband.

"Yes, we have met...at your last party," her eyes went to the man, "You are indeed fortunate to have such a wonderful wife."

That was about the best she could do, given her utter disdain for the Spanish.

Edited by Caroline Despanay

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Esteban had a warm smile as he surveyed each of the persons she introduced.  Ladies, a delight to meet you both."  He bowed to Caroline and Grace.  "Lord Grey," he continued.  "A pleasure.  Thank you for coming tonight."

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Watching Sophia Part Two

He had been absent for some time after the New Year's Ball and so was anxious to get back into The Game. It would seem that Dame Fortuna was on his side as the object of his plans was providing an opportunity without him having to lift a finger!

He was easily adaptable to his surroundings thanks to the years he had spent in careful study and imitation of those of Class and Rank which he knew would all be present here in this place. He did not at once enter but kept his distance striking up small conversations with Courtiers who naturally assumed that HE was as They and thus belonged. He had made use of an old trick claiming time away from Court and so was easily filled in on gossip and such tales that he might make use of.

She had haunted his thoughts these past months and he wondered if she still had the lover he had seen her with at the New Year's Ball - he had had a clear view as that Gentleman made his escape first from that room then she had emerged doing that childish twirl before she had mixed into the crowds. He was curious to see if she had changed any since then. He would wait until there was more of a crowd before going in.

He had no love for this thing called OPERA but it was to be endured if it meant that it brought him closer to her. Tonight he would make observations only. Not approach directly. To early for that. He needed to judge the Field before beginning the Campaign. 

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     Having made quite informal introductions between Mistress Grace and himself, the pair walked to meet their hosts. “My Lady”, he kissed Sophia’s hand. “Your excellency”, he bowed formally to the Ambassador, “the pleasure is all mine. Thank you for the invitation. I must say, your wife’s voice is nothing short of heavenly!” Accustomed as Henry had grown to the opera in Venice, he had learned to appreciate the art. He had even tried to sing once, in a Venetian after party, and had he been sober, he would have made a big fool of himself. At least everyone around him had been drunk, so even those with a discerning ear had merely laughed and quickly forgot.

     “Lady Kendishall, a pleasure to make your acquaintance”. He took the offered hand and kissed it lightly. “Perhaps you will allow me to help you carry that case? I know it is much to ask, but I am accustomed to handling my telescopes and other instruments with much care, so I assure you I’d first break a bone in a fall than to have any harm happen to your instrument”. Henry was trying to be gallant, as the case seemed to be a bit too heavy for the young lady.

     Then the baron addressed the whole group. “It seems I am the only one not musically talented. That is a sad state of affairs. I do promise to enjoy myself most thoroughly, and express my delight quite loudly, though…”

     A thought came unbidden into his conscious thought, “I have heard it said that a good mathematician might make a passable musician, with all the numbers and ratios behind musical theory. If it is so, perhaps I should find a teacher for an instrument. If I succeed, I might even be able to join you in the background one day, and if I fail, I will come out the better man, and might try to become a minor patron of music. Music is such a balm for the soul, don’t you think?”

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Well, she got a bow out of the Spaniard, he was probably too thick to even catch on to her rather subtle dig at the fellow.  No matter, she doubted the two would have to say much more to each other the rest of the evening. Suited her just fine. Now this Lord Gray was far more interesting plus he had the fact he was not Spanish going for him too. The man kissed her hand so she graced him with one of her most radiant smiles. And he also seemed eager to play the gentleman, offering to carry her cello case for her.

"Oh, how kind of you, Lord Gray, but I am used to it's bulk as I have been carting it about since I was thirteen. It is my most treasured possession you see," she graciously refused him.

"Telescope? And other instruments....mayhaps someday I shall be able to see your instruments?" she suddenly inquired, quite well aware some might take that the wrong way but not caring. She had to keep up her libertine reputation afterall.

"Not everyone can be talented in music, otherwise we who are would no longer be special," Caroline quipped.

"I confess mathematics is something above me. So you are interested in learning how to play an instrument? What particular one may I ask? For some are far more difficult than others. I have spent years on mastering the cello, for you to attempt to do so ....well, you would be starting a bit late I am afraid. Please do not be offended though. You are in the very prime of your life and quite handsome too - I only meant you would be a bit old for the cello."

She wasn't certain she had fixed that in the end even after a second try so said, "I will stop talking now."

 

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Master Staggins had arrived  escorting an old student of his, Lady Anne Lennard.  He gave a nod to Sophia by way of a greeting, some time during the evening they would speak properly, and he would introduce His Majesties daughter.  But for now he moved to settle themselves with pre-show drinks, making light conversation. 

As time came round he would move to take his place at the piano, the pieces had been well rehearsed and he anticipated a seamless performance by all. 

 

 

OOC: I'm giving permission for Sophia to 'Blount' Staggins for the performance while I am away.

 

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She had not wanted this particular 'assignment' but could hardly decline. For it had been she that had last spoken with Lady Toledo after all

Mistress Sarah Jennings had meandered her way from the apartments of her Mistress the Duchess of York and now arrived in the company of a few all know to the other. Curisoity was the general reason given and yet one or two of the Gentlemen that had tagged along wondered if Lady Toledo would once again be displaying her talents to popular affect which caused whispers and sushed laughter.

For her part Sarah ignored them and looked instead to the assembled Company noting who was there and what was worn - all the things she'd be asked upon her return later. She knew and was know to just about all yet there were new faces as well. Glad that she had worn a gown of soft grey silk which shimmered nicely and was cut to expertly fit her figure and the pearls worn at neck and ears and upon her left wrist complemented as well. Her blonde hair was up and there was a sparkle in her brown eyes as she strolled slowly to enter the Drawing room taking an offered glass and making her way to where Lady Toledo was with her husband The Ambassador were placed. She was in no hurry.

If Sophia happened to glance about she might catch her eye and a smile for a first greeting would be given. Introductions could come later.

This was the first REAL event since Recess was over and she was eager to hear all the talk and gossip. She was known as someome who appreciated wit and could hold her own.

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Grace made her curtsy to all as Sophia made instructions.  She noted the grip that Caroline had on her instrument case and quite understood, though she was naturally thankful that her own instrument wasn't so large and heavy.  She smiled at all, though she wanted to cringe slightly at Lord Gray's mention of mathematics.  The subject had never been one of her favorites.  The fact that it came in handy when haggling while shopping never entered her mind. 

She then listened, barely keeping her eyes from growing and her jaw dropping at Caroline's words.  Mother would have swatted her upside the head to hear her mention someone's age, much less suggest they were too old for something.  "There's no need to master something.  Even if you do it poorly, if it brings you joy, what does it matter how good you are at it?," she interjected. 

 

"My brother, Gerald, is terrible at carving, but every so often, I'll receive a post from wherever he is stationed with a new lump of wood.  Luckily, he includes a mention of what it is supposed to be, or I'd never guess.  The last lump looked like a badly mutated sheep, but it turned out to be a horse he saw in Antwerp.  And still he does it, as it makes him happy, no matter how my other brothers and uncles and cousins tease him.  He told me that focusing on that piece of wood took him away from the scars of battle for just that little time and brought him peace."  Then she stopped and added, "And now it's my turn to stop talking.  Gracious, we're a chatty bunch!"  The added a smile at the end.

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The introductions had gone well, even if she might not have gotten them all right. Proper introductions in English and Spanish still confused the young Countess, though she had no problem at all making them in Italian and German. Sophia smiled as Lord Grey kissed her hand and praised her voice. “You are too kind, my lord.”

 

She wasn't surprised that Caroline refused his offer to carry her cello. Musicians were quite possessive about their instruments. She had learned that in Venice when she had dared to touch one and had been yelled at by its owner. What kind of instrument had it been? She had long since forgotten.

 

“I would love to look through a telescope too,” she said, noticing the arrival of Master Staggins and nodding to him. Who was the woman with him, she wondered? He had not mentioned being married but perhaps he had a sweetheart? She saw Mistress Jennings as well, and smiled at her. If she approached them, Sophia would introduce the others to her, if she did not already know them.

 

Mistress Preston told a story about her brother and his lack of talent at carving. “I agree that as long as you enjoy something, it doesn't matter whether you do it well or not.”

 

She turned to Lord Grey. “I could teach you to sing, my lord. Almost everyone can carry a tune, but like learning to play an instrument, mastering one's voice takes dedication and practice. As a child, I wasn't taught much about mathematics, but I enjoyed the subject and would love to learn more.” It didn't occur to her that Esteban might not approve. She was carrying his master's child and she doubted he would want to upset her by denying her the chance to acquire more knowledge.

 

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Sarah Jennings

She changed her mind (as women were oft to do) and made for where Lady Toledo was and made her greetings with a curtsey and a smile

"Lady Toledo how well you look! I am looking forward to the Entertainment."

She did not know any of those present but that would change as introductions would no doubt be offered. 

Her gaze rested on the Ambassador then to the other Gentleman then to the other two women present with an easy manner. She was curious to what each might have to offer.

One at least played an instrument as evidence by the large case at her side - which marked her as one that was also going to display Talent to them all perhaps? 

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Toledo

"Si, my wife is heavenly," he replied to Grey with a smile.  Juan called her his angel after all.

The rest of the conversation began to deteriorate some what as math was equated to instrument playing and age became an ugly issue.  Being a diplomat Esteban exclaimed "most talents improve with age, so I should think there is time aplenty for a man like Lord Grey to learn whatever he wishes."  Not wanting to take sides unduly, the Spanish Ambassador mentioned to Caroline "I am sure that the cello must be the most challenging instrument to learn.  I take it that it is not an instrument for the faint of heart.."

He offered smile around to Grace and others.  Anne Lennard was the Countess of Essex, and a daughter of the King, so she earned an especially bright smile and bow as she arrived with Staggins.  Sophia offered to teach Grey to sing.  That seemed to be a more achievable skill than learning an instrument.

Lord Ogle arrives with the Duke of Ablemarle

Both gentlemen seemed in good spirits as they entered.  Both were sure that no one would detect that they had been drinking.  Sophia was quite a looker and both men enjoyed … music … and looking.  Lord Toledo acknowledged their arrival with a "welcome my lords."  He knew their identities and was pleased that men of such stature had decided to attend.

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     “I am trying to organize a moon viewing tomorrow night, as it will be the first full moon of spring”, Henry replied to Caroline’s comments regarding telescopes and instruments. Whether he caught her innuendo or not, his face did not show a sign of it. “I know it is very short notice, but if you are curious, I will have a telescope setup in St James Park, as well as some refreshments. In fact, you would all be most welcome”, he said to all in the group. Henry would have wanted to have more time to organize the event, but Selene would not wait for him… or for anyone. Perhaps the following month something could be arranged at Greenwich. “As for learning an instrument, perhaps you are correct, my lady. I have heard that to learn to play a stringed instrument well you have to start at around five years of age. I am well past that age, as you can see”, he said in good humour.

     Then Grace honoured her name and interjected. It was plain to see she was well-meaning, but her execution of the change of topic was perhaps a bit forced. Still, she received a smile and a slight bow from Henry. “I must agree with you, Mistress Preston. If something brings you joy, and it does not hurt anyone, why not pursue it?”

     When Sophia offered to teach him how to sing, Henry bowed respectfully. “Alas, Lady Toledo, your offer is much appreciated, but in Venice many tried… and fled. I think they called me something like hopelessly tone-deaf, if I translate it properly”. It was true. Not that the baron had a disagreeable voice; it was just that he could not keep a tune even if his life depended on it. That was the reason for his interest in learning an instrument. One did not need to sing when playing something like a flute. Hmm… or perhaps a guitar? I must think about this. Maybe Mr. Staggins could make a good recommendation…

     Then a young lady arrived. She had honey coloured hair and clear blue eyes with a plump baby face. Pretty indeed, if perhaps a bit too young… or was Henry just too old? A pair of younger gentlemen also arrived and were greeted by the Spanish Ambassador. Henry fell silent, hoping for the appropriate introductions.

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The Duke of Buckingham arrived with his young cousin Kingston, who had formerly been Lady Toledo's guardian. Buckingham was dressed in an impressive light cool green and black brocade accented with copious gold. His periwig was the color of his natural blond. It was quite a dramatic costume with its contrast, but he was well-aware that Spaniards had a special affinity for the nobility of black. However, that was a bit too boring for a personality like Buckingham. 

 

After a day of Lords, music was a welcomed distraction before his activities of later that evening. For he had an engagement and a few planned jaunts as well.

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Caroline listened to Grace then smiled, "Well, I suppose. But if you do it poorly, then for heaven's sake do not do it in public."

At least Lord Grey took her rather clumsy comments about age in good humor, she honestly had not meant to insult the fellow who seemed quite decent and was certainly handsome enough. He even made a gracious offer to join him in a viewing of the moon at St.James Park the following evening, a night of a full moon. Now honestly Caroline could care less about the moon but he seemed interesting enough for her to consider it for a few seconds.

"Thank you! I shall take you up on your kind offer," she beamed, "I can bring some liquid refreshment to share also."

The ambassador then remarked about her cello and the difficulty involved in learning to play it. It was a gracious statement for him to make which weakened (but only slightly) her dislike of the Spaniard. She nodded at him.

"Yes, it is a challenge but then I have been called many things but no one has called me 'faint of heart' I assure you. Even though it is a grand challenge indeed to try to meet the high standard your beautiful and talented wife sets."

More people now joined the conversation so Caroline awaited introductions as seemed the proper thing to do.

 

 

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The Earl of Arundel wandered by, or so it seemed, and he followed Buckingham and Kingston into the room.  It might seem to the casual observer that he had merely happened upon the event, rather than planned to attend.  He planned to rendezvous with the lovely Ambassador's wife at first opportunity and had set plans into motion already.

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There was a silence which held as if everyone was waiting for the other to move first. So Sarah took it upon herself and made a self-introduction

"I am Mistress Sarah Jennings attached to Her Grace the Duchess of York. Tis a pleasure to make your acquaintance." She gave a curtsey first towards the Ambassador then another to the rest.  

"It is unconventional yet sometimes a needed thing so I think I shall be forgiven." 

She smiled at them and hoped that they would take the hint and follow her lead and then she would nicely try to draw them away for this was not meant as a place to linger overlong as others' wanted to approach.

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Now some might be askance at the possible faux pas of introducing oneself but Caroline, for one, appreciated such straying from convention.

"The pleasure is mine, Mistress Sarah Jennings. And I heartily approve of you taking the initiative here, afterall why not?" she smiled.

"I am Caroline Despanay, Baroness Kendishall who will be playing second fiddle to Lady Toledo here...well except this is not a fiddle but a cello," she patted her instrument case.

Edited by Caroline Despanay

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Esteban was contributing more to the conversation than Sophia had expected him to, being as diplomatic as always. He didn't seem to think that Lord Grey's compliment was inappropriate and even agreed with him. Usually, he was suspicious of any gentleman who flattered her. Maybe now that she was pregnant, he thought he didn't have to worry about the attentions of other men. He had no idea of her plans for tomorrow morning.

 

Where was Lord Chatham anyway? He had promised that he would be here.

 

She pouted in mock disappointment when Lord Grey refused her offer to teach her to sing. If the experts in Venice had failed, there was probably no hope for him. She was, however, interested in his moon viewing event. Sophia had never looked through a telescope before. “I would love to come as well,” she said after Caroline had stated her attentions. Turning toward Esteban, she added: “As long as my lord husband will join me.”

 

Mistress Jennings arrived just as Esteban turned to greet the Duke of Abermarle and Lord Ogle. She had not remembered seeing either of them either of the concerts she had given since she had arrived in London. Perhaps they had attended the opera last season and wished to hear more of her voice.  Or they had learned to appreciate opera while visiting the Continent.  The young Countess smiled at them and curtsied, but didn't interrupt their conversation with her husband.

 

“Thank you, Mistress Jennings. I hope you will enjoy what Lady Kendishall and I have planned.” She was about to introduce her to the others when her attention was caught by three new arrivals. Sophia noticed Lord Arundel first, and her heart leapt in her chest and then plummeted to the pit of her stomach. She had been longing to see him ever since the season began, but she dreaded telling him that she was with child. It didn't take Lord Grey's level of mathematical knowledge to figure out that her baby could be his.

 

He didn't look at her, yet nor did she expect him to with her husband so close. Her gaze left his fine form and moved to the Duke of Buckingham and Lord Kingston. Sophia had never doubted that her former guardian would keep his promise and she hoped he had already spoken to his cousin about her.

 

She was so distracted that she didn't hear Sarah introduce herself or Caroline's reply. “Please excuse me for a few moments,” she said to the group gathered around her. They would certainly understand her desire to greet such an important guest.

 

Joining Francis and Buckingham

 

Strolling up to the two blond gentleman, she dropped a perfect curtsy to Buckingham. “Your Grace, you honor us with your presence. I hope you enjoyed the gift I sent you for Christmas. I will be singing that aria tonight.”

 

She smiled at Francis. “And it is always a pleasure to see you, Lord Kingston.” She raised an inquisitive eyebrow, hoping that he would indicate whether this was a good time to ask for a meeting with the Duke.

 

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Sometimes, the thought of Sophia singing made him think about her illicit singing. And not the illicit sort of 'impressive lungs' singing, but rather of the public stage sort. There were people who had traveled to Italy at court. Francis had just recently been talking to one. It made him somewhat hesitant of her being found out one day. She would think it worth the risk, he knew. 

 

Nevertheless, he had kept his word, and Buckingham had not needed very much coaxing. The Duke had spent much of his youth carousing in Italy, so Opera was a familiar art to him, rather than the foreign art of...Papists...which was more what the conservative English would think in Francis' mind. The English were quite xenophobic to Francis, likely for being an island. On the continent, one came across different sorts of people from different countries all the time. Even their ports were far more diverse. 

 

He did not see Arundel enter behind him. He only saw Sophia coming toward them. She was always quite exuberant. 

 

"Good evening, Lady Toledo. Everything is looking very well," he complimented of her ambiance in the room. "This shall be a welcome change to the Lords chamber." Francis was not quite skilled enough to understand the specific meaning of the lady's eyebrow. He was lucky he understood ladies so when well they spoke! He just thought she was surprised. For all he knew that could be in the cut and colour of his coat! Little did he know. 

 

Though, really, he would have thought it obvious such conversations were more meant for private. 

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Henry with the Ambassador and the Ladies

     Henry saw His Grace Buckingham's arrival. Who wouldn’t? The man was so princely, that only the King was more so. Not even York or Cumberland were as grand. Henry’s first impulse was to greet his benefactor, but there were young ladies around him, and he could not just leave. He would wait a few moments, he decided, and then move on to greet the grand Duke.

     “I solemnly swear not to play any musical instrument in public until allowed to do so by my teacher, Lady Kendishall. I would not want to be greeted by a half-rotten tomato to the side of the head, even if it was much deserved”, he said with a half-smile. “I will leave public musical interpretations to those who, like you, are a pleasure to listen to”. He intended his public interventions to be in the scientific arena for the time being. “And any refreshments you arrive with will be more than welcome”. Not that Henry thought he would be found lacking in preparations, but who was he to de

     As Sarah Jennings introduced herself, Lord Grey bowed formally, and kissed a hand if offered. “Lord Grey, Mistress Jennings, at your service”. That she was attached to York’s household gave her a position that none of the nobles had. “And there is nothing to forgive. One can be, on occasion, a bit too formal, I think”. That was what Henry thought of himself, at least.

     “It would be my honour if the Ambassador and you were to grace my humble outing with your presence, Lady Toledo. I do promise it will not be as boring as looking at this old goat peeking through a looking glass for hours on end”. He had made sure that food and drink would be in good supply, as well as a few other details he had been able to arrange.

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