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

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“Nervous of your audience I mean.” Rowland clarified his question, then with a grin added, “ah, but plainly you’ve answered that as well, your confidence is becoming.”

He doubted Caroline had even been one of those frail girls that needed reassurance, and in fact that was part of the reason he had thought that she and Alice might get along very well.  So now, as both ladies made their desire to know who the other was plain, it was his pleasure to gesture sweepingly and make the introductions:

“Here I have Lady Alice de Courtenay, the little sister of my dearest friends Edward the Earl Avon and Francis de Courtenay.”   

Alice stepped properly into the small circle they now became and said, “Quit being so dramatic Rowland.”

Rowland poked out his tongue and continued on regardless.

“And Alice, this is Lady Kendishall, whom warmly gives her name Caroline to the use of her friends.  If you play your cards correctly perhaps that is what you too shall become.”

While only young, Alice rolled her eyes at Rowland, and then looking to Caroline commented. “You know at home he’s been calling you part of the chattels that came with the estate.”  Yes, she’d have her revenge on Rowland for making her wait!

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"My confidence is because I know I can handle it," she pointed out but while she could not read his thoughts of course, the man's assessment of her was quite correct. Even as a child Caroline had never lacked for confidence nor shyness. She may well have gotten that from her mother who had been a very outgoing even assertive woman. Rowland now felt the time proper for the introductions and started with the young lady accompanying him.

"Lady de Courtenay," Caroline nodded with a smile, then noting how this Alice spoke to Rowland. Had they just had some sort of tiff perhaps on the way to this event? Rowland remained unruffled and went on to introduce Caroline, a rather good one too in Caroline's opinion.

However Alice now addressed her with an immediate revelation.

"Oh, really?" Caroline arched one eyebrow upward, while she would not put it past the man she was not automatically believing this, at first appearance anyhow, snotty girl either.

"First of all, it is proper to address the person you were just introduced to. Secondly, if what you say is true, it has just shown me I could never trust you with any confidences," she remained cool and collected though snuck a look at Rowland with just a hint of fire in those expressive eyes of her.

"Chattel is it?" she waited for his explanation, he'd better have one. Their relationship was far too new for her to trust him this early and this was indeed disconcerting. Assuming the brat was telling the truth of course.

 

Edited by Caroline Despanay

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Bucky, Francis, & Nicci

 

Though she could not have foreseen it, Nicci's comment on never hearing details about his childhood hit Francis rather hard. He had once attempted sharing such a thing with Buckingham, but had been rather rebuffed in a way that did not make him wish to attempt again. And somehow that made it equally difficult to share such things in front of him. Or perhaps even not in front of him too.

 

"Well, I did lose my virginity at the tender age of twelve, but now is surely not the place for details," Francis replied, laughing, although the laugh did not really meet his eyes. "But I assure you, I was sufficiently naughty."

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Bucky, Francis, & Nicci

 

If the Duke noticed any lack of true amusement in Francis, he did not show it. 

 

Instead the Duke laughed and said, "No sailor is well-behaved, and nor are men with Villiers blood. Your cheeks would be red, no doubt, even for a lady of freedom such as yourself!"

 

York & Toledos

York looked at her for a long moment after her joke before chuckling. He was not always the wittiest or quickest man in that way, even if he was (or had been) a force in battle. 

 

"Oh, very good, you are witty," York said. "Let us hope you have left enough to cover the smell of London, then, it can be brutal in the Spring." He was very bad at making jokes.  It was why he always stood out at libertine events.

 

Churchill favored Sophia with a smile. 

 

"Shall we find some refreshment and seats, Churchill?" York asked, giving a nod to Toledo. Ladies made it difficult to talk of war. York then smiled at Sophia. "A pleasant and successful evening to you, Lady Toledo." He might be rather blunt and not very witty, but he did know how to behave.

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(ooc: putting this back up for responses moving forward)

IC

Sarah, Grace, and Henry

Sarah cast a look to Lord Grey wanting to speak before he did.

"I am indeed selfish! I have, I believe, cast so much onto you Mistress Preston that tis no wonder you feel overwhelmed. Do not distress yourself over anything I have asked. It was an asumption on my part that you have come to Court because you seek to be taken up by some Peer into their Household. Most of our sex that comes has that desire and so if no Relative is at Court then introduction will be provided by a Lady who is known to the family and in some Standing herslf."

"I do not know your own circumstance but if you need to give out those who you are already acquainted with you may use my name and I am sure Lord Grey could be persuaded for he is a kindly Gentleman I do believe."

She twinkled at him with a smile.

"I am but a small fish in this big pond but His Grace the Duke of York, as His Majesty's Brother, adds greatly to my own standings."

"So please do not dispair. I do hope that this will be worth my coming - do you like this thing called 'Opera' Mistress Preston? Tis much like a cat screeching or so I think."

Sarah was trying to ease the other by explination and then by topic change. She hoped it would help. 

She also hoped that Lord Grey would forgive her speaking out of turn.

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Bucky, Francis, & Nicci

If there was anyone at court she would enjoy upsetting, it was Not Francis.  In fact if she could comprise a list of persons that she thought deserved a good needling right through their ribs into their heart, her list might be far longer than anyone at all could have guessed! But as it was, in this musical and generally festive evening she was in a brightness of spirts that did not even recognise that she'd upset. 

"But at twelve, that is surely criminal!" she remarked, perhaps for a moment feeling upon precipice of a far too dark conversation for this setting - she navigated away.

"I wonder if any others here tonight might claim the 'naughty' qualifications of my charming company..." her eyes turned outward to regard those others here.  "Though of course few readily reveal their more decadent indulgences... I should wonder if He there has a story or two. Oh, or perhaps She." Discreetly she nodded her head towards this unsuspecting soul, and then that - then waggling her eyebrows suggestively with a grin. 

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Caroline, Rowland & Alice

Alice stood corrected by Caroline, for having been overfamiliar (her mistake was mimicking Rowlands casual manner).  Giving a sigh as she realised that Caroline was one of those rules and etiquette type she dipped a curtsy. "I am sorry Vicountess, please forgive my oversight." 

Still, she was pleased to have dropped Rowland in it - as old friends she knew he deserved a hard time now and then! 

"Did I say that?" the young man sounded a touch too defensive, and then gave a pitched laugh as he continued, "Surely I didn’t. No that does sound like me at all." 

"Probably, Lady Alice just misunderstood me when I told her about my surprising good fortune, and what with there already being a Lady of the house despite my not being married. That really, I am practically spared that fate. She is just lucky really, for often enough Avon has told me I ought marry her myself. Imagine that, then I'd be stood with two Lady Kendishalls."

Stuff that he could only joke about on account of knowing that Alice had no interest at all of marrying him. 

Really Rowland.” Alice muttered under her breath.

 

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The guests were starting to take their seats.  Ablemarle and Ogle moved to sit in the second row.  Henry Howard, moved to take a seat in back.  With luck, the performance would start soon.

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Once Caroline corrected her, the girl reverted to proper etiquette. Considering she herself often preferred conversation without worrying so much about social rules and titles, Caroline was satisfied. Later she probably wouldn't even care if the girl called her by Christian name...but first she would have to prove herself more...well...nice.

"You are forgiven, of course," Caroline deigned a smile.

Then it was up to Rowland to defend himself against Alice's damaging revelations. Truth be told, Caroline rather enjoyed the man try and squirm out of it.

"There is that, one thing we both agree on. I too have no interest in marriage. Tried it once and not even my idea but it was not pleasant and I have no desire to repeat the mistake. Which - if Lady de Courtenay is telling the truth - would truly be repeating my mistake."

"Speaking of which, what about you, my dear? Has your family made or is working on arrangements to have you married off for their benefit?" she asked Alice directly.

As the girl answered, Caroline noticed they did not have much time left for conversation unless they continued after the performance. It was almost time and she would need to hustle on up front to join Sophia. So far at least Sophia was not up there yet.

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Rowland, Caroline & Alice

"Well there you go." the newly minted Lord Kendishall said as though everything was settled now, "here we are a grand ole happy family without any need of husbands or wives."

"Well that is good for you both." Alice gave a sigh that might have betrayed that she was rather less cynical than her companions on that score.  Yes she did fancy getting married, having her own house, and perhaps an adoring husband too. Caroline then questioned her rather directly on that topic, but direct suited Alice just fine, for she was not one to hold her punches either.

"My brother has been rather obvious about it, yes." meeting the other woman’s eyes she gave a shake of her head, "he even held a dinner and invited a load of bachelors.  I thought it rather funny at the time, until it was not." much to Alice's embarrassment the men had practically ignored her. It had been horrible. "So anyhow,  since his resounding flop, he's mostly left me to my own devices."

“Truth be told, I’ve not actually been trying.  I don’t want a dull or boring husband after all, but so many men about court are.”  She’d met one man who’d seemed a bit more fun, expecially when she'd put on the mask. Lord Langdon was his name.  But then when she took the mask off again he’d been a bit stuffy too. But, perhaps.  She'd wanted to wear her mask here tonight, incase he was here again - but she'd not, and and neither was he. 

 

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Sophia parting from Toledo, York, and Churchill and heading onstage

 

York just stared at her, as if he didn't understand her jest. When he finally chuckled, Sophia realized that it had finally dawned on him. Was he truly that dim? It appeared so, particularly as he didn't already know that she was witty. Anyone who hadn't been living under a rock for the last year was aware of that. His rejoinder showed her that he was also lacking in that particular attribute. She felt a bit sorry for him. Maybe he hid behind his status because that was all he had, all he knew. She also suspected that his wife wore the breeches in their marriage. The Duchess, though much younger than he was, was quite astute.

 

Captain Churchill smiled at her but said nothing. Did he not remember her or would he rather not bring up the unfortunate incident at the ball, which had been caused by a tantrum thrown by the man who was currently standing beside him? That must be it. He wouldn't want to embarrass his master, especially in front of the Spanish Ambassador.

 

Sophia had noticed Master Staggins nod to the musicians and as people were starting to take their seats, it was almost time to start. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach and her nerves were strung tight with anxiety. She welcomed those familiar sensations. It was perfectly normal to be nervous before a performance. No concert, play, or opera went exactly as planned, but usually, with a bit of improvisation, they did go smoothly. At least she didn't feel nauseous. 

 

York wasn't the brightest candle in the chandelier but he was polite and his good wishes seemed genuine. As did his smile. “Thank you, You Grace, and I hope you and Captain Churchill enjoy the show.”

 

One they had left, she smiled a bit shakily at her husband. “You should find a seat too, Esteban. And wish me luck.” She had hoped to greet Lord Chatham before she performed, but she could speak to him after the concert. Even if their paths did not cross tonight, they would have plenty of time alone together tomorrow. 

 

As she left him and made her way down the aisle between the chairs, she noticed Lord Arundel sitting in the back row. Sophia gave him a look that said 'I need to talk to you,' and then continued on her way to the stage. As she stepped upon it, she glanced behind the piano to make certain that the basket of roses she had placed there had not been removed. Those were the flowers that she and Caroline would be using as props during the concert.

 

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Charles taking his seat

Charles had hoped to speak to Sophia as well, but York had lingered and one did not simply cut in front of princes. Particularly ones known to be jealous of their royal prerogatives. There was nothing for it now but to hope that he would have an opportunity to talk with her later. (And if not, well, there was tomorrow, a thought which sent a pleasing thrum of anticipation through him.)

The performance seemed about to begin, so Charles contented himself with a bow to both Toledo and York, (not that he could be sure that either was paying any attention) a companionable nod and smile for Churchill, and a small adjustment to his cravat on the off chance that Sophia was watching. Pleasantries observed, he poured himself into a seat and settled down to wait for the concert to start.

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Bucky, Francis, & Nicci

 

"I do not see any who have made such lofty acquaintances as you," Buckingham teased her. "And with such precision." It was partially a compliment to himself, truth be told, but that did not diminish her worth and ability in the very least. He was quite fond of those who could flourish with a bit of well-timed assistance and quite fond of her in particular. 

 

He offered her his arm and said, "Choose our seats, my dear, and choose wisely and we might just hear a snippet of a rendezvous."

 

Churchill

 

John noticed his friend and returned the smile, quirking a brow just a moment before he sat next to York. For someone who knew him well, the quirk was a comment on the misfortune on not being able to abandon the prince in favor of his friend. Chatham would surely be more amusing to sit next to. 

 

 

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Caroline Taking the Stage

"I often share your view of men. My own early marriage was not my idea but my father. He is a soldier...retired now but he was not ...is not a matchmaker. I wish you the best of luck but only when you feel you are ready," Caroline addressed the young lady.

"Now however I really must hasten up there lest Sophia be cross with me. She might sic that Spaniard of hers on me and I would be forced to humiliate him in the ensuing squabble," she just could not resist jibing the Spanish.

With a grin to Rowland then, she hurried up to the stage, hauling her cello case and began to prepare for the performance.

"Sorry, got caught up in conversation," she explained to Sophia.

Edited by Caroline Despanay

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"Thank you." Alice smiled, and tipping her head listened to Caroline's experience. "So your own was rather less..."

But then the musicians were moving to the stage, conversation was suspened for Caroline had to excuse herself.  Well wishes from both Rowland and Alice flowed, who took a seat in the third row. (Not sitting on the roses, they picked them up and held them - Alice took a sniff of hers, and looked around to see what the otehr ladies were doing with theirs?)

Staggins also left his companion at the seating at that point, and taking a pace on the piano Stool, awaited the Hostess' prompt to begin.  

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Sarah, Grace, and Henry

Henry may well have been about to offer his services as Sarah had just suggested, but for an untimely interruption that foiled the young women’s plot.  He was turned aside by a servant with a message, his expression depending into concern as he read.   With impeccable politeness he was forced to ask the ladies forgiveness for being abruptly called away.  While he did not go into any details, the women could be certain that he was genuinely disappointed to have to leave their fine company.

... it was then that they might notice that everyone was taking their seats; for as Susan put it, the screaming of cats was about to begin! 

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Sarah Grace and Henry

She looked to him with concern naturally expressing her understanding.

"I do hope nothing terrible has occured ..." She whispered to his retreating back before she turned back to Grace adding

"I think that things are about to begin ....." 

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Sarah and Grace, with Henry's departure

Grace also expressed her concerns to Henry as he departed.  Moving next to Sarah, so that all available seats were, indeed, available.  "I do hope it isn't something terrible," she agreed with her current companion.  Looking forward, she noted that Sarah was correct.  "This should be fun," she said, settling down to enjoy the music.  At least there would be no eyes on her during this time.  She could relax.  No way she could make a fool of herself simply listening to music. 

She hoped

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Bucky, Francis, & Nicci

“If you don’t say so yourself!” Nicolette grinned at the Duke’s reply.  Not so long ago he’d called her out on passively complimenting herself while complimenting him, now the tables were turned, and it entertained hugely!

Taking his offered arm, and with a smile to Francis she moved to claim seating.  “Then we must be within the thick.” She supposed, choosing a row right in the middle, which was surely the best spot to overhear… “though who would be so reckless as to plan anything thrillingly saucy with so many ears nearby. We might be waiting a long time Your grace, putting our patience to the test.  Unless. Unless such a intrigue was to come from our own lips?” she giggled again, “ -  of which I am not at all averse!”

The event might start soon she supposed, everyone seemed ready - though she herself was in no rush to hush. 

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Francis was happy to let Buckingham do what he did best and that was claim attention. He stood by pleasantly amused by the exchange between the two. Francis was in Nicci's company far more often than the Duke. 

 

He sat down with them in the middle row and looked to see who was around them before directing his eyes to the front, eager to see what Sophia had come up with for tonight. He knew her mind to be quite dynamic, and  he had also seen the lengths she could go to, so nothing would truly surprise him. If she looked his way, he would give her a wink.

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Arundel caught Sophia's look, but pretended otherwise.  As the blond beauty ascended the stage, the crowd grew quiet, mostly.  It was time for Sophia to sing.

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