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Cordelia Lucas

Newcastle Residence, the 6th, 2pm, Matters of Marriage

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IC

Her coach delivered her to the residence of the Duke of Newcastle and to her meeting with his Duchess as had been discused over Recess.

It was a Social call but underneath ran the hopes that it would turn out to be a success for Cordelia with a marriage contract signed and sealed between the younger daughter called Margaret and, well, there in lay the issue. The right candidate must be found and the pool was not large. The eldest daughter was now a Duchess and  the next

soon to be a double Countess so for this third the aim was not that high. Naturally she could not outrank either of the two elder sisters nor could she outrank whoever her older brother would marry. All the Formalities must be observed after all!

She drew even with the front entrance and was handed out the wind playing with the pale green tafetta of her skirts - a color much like that of a ripe pear and one that she knew made her look good. No hat but her upswept hair was nicely arranged and she wore her only 'Good' set of jewelry of creamy pearls in a double strand at her neck

and dangled from each ear. She carried a small leather portfolio that held her notes and from which the Duchess might be in agreement with.

One of her son's servants jumped down and saw her up the stairs and rapped sharply on the doors   .....

Edited by Cordelia Lucas

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Lady Newcastle was looking forward to her meeting with Lady Lucas, and had been sorry that their first appointment had to be canceled because her youngest daughter had fallen ill. Arabella had been fine the next day, which had made her wonder if Margaret had bribed her into pretending to be sick so that she could postpone the meeting. However, it was easy to tell when a four-year-old was lying and the child had denied that her older sister had asked her to feign illness.

 

As for whether that was something that Margaret would do, her mother had no idea. Unlike her sisters, the middle Newcastle girl was an enigma. She kept her own council and rarely spoke about her acquaintances, her activities, or her wishes for the future. The girl was by no means silent. She was just clever about drawing conversation away from herself. Nobody knew what she was thinking or feeling or planning. Lady Newcastle found this quite frustrating and wished Margaret was not so secretive.

 

Sometimes, she thought her daughter was hiding something, or perhaps many things. Yet whatever it was, it was likely not scandalous. She never went anywhere without a chaperone and the woman reported that she always behaved in a proper manner. Margaret was a friendly girl and never met a stranger. This was her first season at court and she had already made several friends who seemed to  enjoy her company. Though there had yet to be a ball, Lady Newcastle believed that when there was, Margaret wouldn't miss a single dance. She acted like a perfect courtier.

 

But nobody was perfect.

 

The Duchess had asked for Lady Lucas' help in finding Margaret a husband, but she also hoped that the other woman would gain some insight into the girl's mysterious behavior. She hoped to have Margaret married sometime next year, as her sister Frances would be wedding Dorset later this year. Preparations were already underway and Lady Newcastle had nearly more than she could handle with the planning of everything. It would be a lavish wedding, of course. Though she would never admit it, sweet and demure young Frances was her mother's favorite and she wanted her wedding day to be special.

 

A knock on the large double doors of the mansion interrupted her thoughts and Lady Newcastle walked into the foyer to greet her guest as soon as the door was opened by a liveried footman. “Good afternoon, Lady Lucas,” she greeted the woman with a warm smile. “I'm glad you could come today.”

 

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Cordelia looked up and smiled as she was divested of her cloak walking to meet the Duchess.

"Good Afternoon, Your Grace." She said back and offered her curtsey.

"I am glad as well. I hope All are well."

She offered the usual Social Niceties as was expected and she would wait paitently for the Duchess to to lead the conversation.

Her gaze doing a quick once over of the surroundings curious to see what, if anything, had changed since the last time she had been here. 

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“Thank you for the good wishes,” Lady Newcastle replied. “My youngest is quite fine now. I think she might have eaten something that disagreed with her. The next day, she was running around the house as if she had never been ill.” The Duchess loved her offspring, all six of them. Her eldest had been married for seven years now but still had no children. Perhaps Frances would be the daughter who gave her mother a grandchild to dote upon. Henry's fiancee was still a child herself, around the age of her own Catherine, and she doubted that they would be married for a few years yet.

 

“Come, let us go into the drawing room.” She led Lady Lucas down an elegantly decorated corridor and into a parlor that had a luxurious but understated charm. There was a table close to the fireplace where a small fire was burning in the hearth. It was covered in a pretty blue tablecloth and the chairs that sat beside it were upholstered in the colors of blue, violet, and white.

 

“It looks as if you have come prepared,” Lady Newcastle commented, nodding toward Cordelia's leather portfolio. “Please take a seat. Tea will be served soon.”

 

The Duchess arranged herself decorously upon one of the chairs. “I can't thank you enough for helping me with this, Lady Lucas. I am sure that your expertise will insure that Margaret will make as advantageous a union as her older siblings.”

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She followed the Duchess into the Drawing Room and while it was indeed Spring she was glad for the fire.

She arranged herself in much the same fashion commenting with a small smile that

"Well all I can do I shall Your Grace. That being said Lady Margaret can hardly make a marriage that will set her above the eldest or the one set to marry. And then there is your son, the Duke's heir, she must not outrank his wife."

"Do you not agree?"

Cordelia felt sure that the Duchess was well aware of how the Properties must be observed but it didn't hurt to make sure.

"I have made some 'notes' that will be a handy guide but then you will be far more familiar with the names on it then I ..."

"And how is your daughter upon this subject? Receptive I hope or else we shall have a problem afore we even begin."

Edited by Cordelia Lucas

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Lady Lucas knew the unwritten rules of marriage quite well, which the Duchess had expected. The other woman had arranged marriages before, which was one of the reasons she had asked for her assistance. “Of course. My son's betrothed is the heiress of an Earldom and will be a future Duchess when they wed. I wish Margaret to marry as high as possible, though.” All mothers wanted their children to marry well, and Lady Newcastle was no exception.  Frances was marrying a double Earl, but perhaps Margaret would attract a less powerful Marquess or an Earl with several lesser titles and the thriving properties that went with them.    She was uninterested in any gentlemen with financial problems, but Lady Lucas probably already knew that.

 

“Some of them,” she said about the names on the list. “Those from the more established families that attend court. But some of the new courtiers will be unfamiliar to me.” Not all nobles enjoyed court life. Some preferred to live away from the gossip and crowds.   Their sons didn't always share their views and came to London as soon as they were old enough. Most, she assumed were looking for wives.

 

Lady Lucas inquired as to how Margaret felt about marriage. The Duchess thought that was very considerate, since most young ladies, including herself, had no choice in the matter. Lady Newcastle had not known her future husband well, but he was a Duke, and that was good enough for her. “She is amenable to the idea.”

 

Lady Newcastle had told Margaret of this meeting to discuss her marriage and had asked her how she felt about it now that her sister had been betrothed. She had said she looked forward to it … the proper thing to say ... but her enigmatic smile had betrayed nothing of what she was truly thinking.

 

“Would you like to meet her? She's at home. I heard her playing the piano and singing this morning, and she said she was going to work on some embroidery after lunch. She usually helps me with the management of the household in the late afternoon” The Duchess mentioned Margaret's activities so that her guest would know that she was skilled in the womanly arts.

 

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Cordelia nodded her head as the Duchess spoke of her thoughts regarding a marriage for her daughter - anything was possible she knew but the trick was in the understanding of just how Probably it might be.

"I would very much like to meet her." She smiled then and in a more serious tone added 

 "And after she is announced and paid her respect I would ask that Your Grace allow me to speak in a manner designed to provide me with what I need to know."

"There is no slight intended." She hastened to assure." I could not help but hear how you spoke of her 'attributes' and that is to be expected but as her Mother you are perhaps too inclined to favor."

"If she looks to you for guidance you needs must say that she has to answer as I have asked and in a Truthful manner. You are not to provide an answer to whatever I have asked."

This was always the sticking point. Too many mothers felt the need to ensure that daughters were pumped fuller than they actually were and thus they, eager to make a contract, felt inclined to be the voice rather than risk a daughter who sprouted nonsense.

"I have assumed that she has benefited from an education by her parents but also from male tutors as well as gentle-women of your household and perhaps a governess?"

"I must hear from Lady Margaret herself as to how she judges her own Skills and Accomplishments. If she believes herself capable enough to handle her husbands Household in all manner of ways in which I shall ask."

"I must see her nature and judge what needs to be changed or improved."

"It is also important that she understands that she has the right to speak but in the end the decision will not be hers to make but that of the Duke. She would naturally not be forced into a marriage."

"if plans go well then I see no reason why a contract can not be negotiated come Fall - there must be time to check each candidate once we have decided on the short-list - so six months ahead is easily reached."

"Will you be supportive Your Grace as I have outlined?"

Much was riding on the answer and so Cordelia hoped that the Duchess was able to understand and take her meaning.

"And after some time with your daughter let us two then put heads together and read thru the names that I have compiled and we can cross out those not suitable and select the ones you wish to pursue."

Edited by Cordelia Lucas

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Though her expression remained neutral and polite, Lady Newcastle was overjoyed that Lady Lucas wanted to meet Margaret. It was what she had hoped. She understood the other woman's intentions, and was pleased to let her interview her enigmatic middle daughter. The Duchess didn't worry that the girl would spout inane drivel, but that she would say exactly the right thing and nothing more. Margaret had taken saying exactly the right thing to an art form. Because of this, it was impossible to tell what she was really thinking. She had also turned keeping one's own council into an art form.

 

Perhaps she would divulge more to Lady Lucas than she did to her mother. All girls wanted to marry well, and she knew that Margaret was no exception, even if she had never come out and said it.  She had agreed that she should marry as high as possible. That was, after all, exactly the right thing to say.

 

“Of course,” Lady Newcastle said a bit too quickly when asked if she would be supportive. It might seem strange for a Duchess to defer to a Baronetess, but Lady Lucas was an expert at matchmaking and she needed all the help she could get with Margaret. Somewhere beneath that secret smile and perfectly proper demeanor were opinions and feelings. Perhaps Lady Lucas would be able to draw them out.

 

The Duchess had even gone so far as to search her room to find clues to her personality, but there had been nothing at all that hinted of her interests. She had been hopeful when she found her diary … until she read it. Every short entry was exactly what one would expect of a sixteen-year-old girl. It was as if Margaret had written it precisely because she wanted it to be discovered, which hinted at a cleverness that bordered on diabolical brilliance for a young lady of her tender age. Lasy Newcastle  prayed that she was mistaken, though being shrewd enough to do such a thing could serve her well in the future.

 

She instructed a nearby servant to send for her daughter and to have another place set at the table for tea. “I will even leave the room if you wish. Margaret may be more likely to open up to you if I am not present. However, I will remain if you think it is best.” Lady Newcastle looked with interest at the portfolio. “And yes, after you have spoken to her, we will go through the list.” She was very curious as to which names were on it. Some of them she might have already guessed, as she had been pondering husbands for Margaret for some time. Lady Lucas likely knew of more eligible lords than she did.

 

Margaret arrived at the same time as the third place setting. She was a pretty girl of average height with shiny chestnut curls and intelligent green eyes, garbed in a blue gown sprinkled with embroidered violets. Her cheeks were flushed becomingly and her lips were turned up in a polite smile. She looked like the perfect Duke's daughter, her mother thought with an inward sigh. Everything about Margaret was exactly as one would expect. Something wasn't right about that.

 

“Lady Lucas, I would like to introduce you to my daughter, Margaret,” she said.

 

The young girl inclined her head respectfully to the older woman. “I am pleased to meet you, my lady,” she replied in a sweet clear voice, which was, the Duchess thought, precisely the kind of voice one would think she should have.

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"I prefer it if you remain Your Grace. I want there to be a 'relaxed' presence. Far better to ascertain that way."

Shrewed eyes watched as the girl entered taking note of her attire and how she carried herself. A brow raised slightly as there was no curtsey that accompanied her greeting.

Was it intentional or was she nervous? Doubtful that her education had overlook such necessary formalities even if nerves were involved. Interesting indeed.

Her own reply came quickly said on a smile.

"You have indeed blossomed Lady Margaret since the last I saw you - of which you have no memory I am sure. You have an aire of delicateness about you. Tell me, are you stronger than you appear?"

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“Very well,” the Duchess conceded.

 

Was the fact that she didn't curtsy a clue to Margaret's personality? Could it be that she was arrogant and didn't believe that she should have to curtsy to a mere Baronetess nor give deference to a lady who was older and wiser than she? Or was she so amiable and down to earth that she thought a polite nod was sufficient when greeting relatives in her own home? It was difficult to tell from the gracious expression on her face. She didn't look nervous at all. Nor did she seem overconfident.

 

“Thank you, my lady.  And no, I'm afraid I have no recollection of that occasion, though I wish I did.” She reacted neither positively or negatively to Lady Lucas' comment about her delicateness, and before she could answer her question, the tea and refreshments arrived and everything was set upon the table. “May I pour, Mother?' she asked and Lady Newcastle nodded.

 

Margaret, still standing, lifted the pretty porcelain teapot and poured the amber liquid into all three glasses, not spilling a single drop. There was a distinct elegance about the way she performed the simple service and when she was done, she set the teapot down without it clinking upon its plate. Sugar and milk were provided so that each lady could enjoy her tea the way she preferred it.

 

“Physically, mentally, emotionally, or metaphorically?” she answered finally as she sat down. One expressive hand fluttered to the spoon in the sugar bowl and added a small amount to her cup.

 

The Duchess suppressed a sigh, hoping that Margaret didn't answer each of Lady Lucas' questions with another question of the evasive sort.

 

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Cordelia hid a smile and thought that this was going to get interesting.

She waited until Lady Margaret had poured the tea watching her movements thinking that she was indeed well-rehearsed.

She took a sip then answered back 

"Why all four naturally. Let us start with the one that YOU think is of the most import and I would know the reasons why."  

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Margaret answered without the slightest hesitation, her cup poised halfway to her lips. “All four are equally important. A lady must be strong physically so that she can bear her husband many fine sons. She must be mentally strong so that she can run her household and solve any problems that arise with intelligence and insight. Emotional strength is also essential. Many marriages are unhappy and gentlemen often take mistresses. A lady must be able to hide her bitter feelings and appear happy in public. Metaphorically, a lady must be the glue that holds her family together and the light that makes them shine.”

 

She did not speak proudly or boastfully, but confidently and sincerely. When done, she lifted her cup to her lips, took a delicate sip, and smiled at Lady Lucas.

 

So she’s not answering with questions, her mother thought, but with generalizations that reveal nothing about herself. Lady Newcastle had been frustrated by Elizabeth’s wildness and proud of Frances’ decorum and modesty. Her third daughter utterly perplexed her. Margaret was a conundrum wrapped in silk and lace.

 

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Cordelia smiled.

"You have expressed what you have been taught and memorized it well. Your manner of presentation gives that away. I must say tis rather a dissapointment."

Here she paused and gave a small sigh.

"I was hopeful that you would not only be well presented as a daughter of a Duke should be but also have some Spirit about you. For no husband wants a wife that only quotes what she has read and has no words that are her own. How could she be a true helpmate?"

She looked to the Duchess then her tone a bit sad as she continued 

"It must be a worrisome thing indeed Your Grace. But do not be disheartened. I am certain that a husband can be found for this daughter. Perhaps, since she has described a Paragon of a Wife that she seeks to emulate, might His Grace be persuaded towards a Gentleman of the Cloth? Oh a well placed one naturally and Lady Margaret, as his Wife, would be perfect in that Role. There are many Parishes outside of London after all. What do you think?"

She sipped her tea.

Sometimes one had to resort to shocking right off the bat. She wanted to see just how far this girl would go.

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Lady Newcastle was shocked at Cordelia’s suggestion until she realized what she was doing … trying to anger Margaret so that she showed some emotion. Her middle daughter would certainly protest marrying a common priest. Or was she so pious that  it was what she truly desired? She seemed to enjoy going to church every Sunday. But she seemed to enjoy everything else just as much.

 

The Duchess lifted one finger to her cheek, as if considering Lady Lucas’ advice. Of course, her husband would never agree to such a thing. Both of them wanted their daughters to marry for social and political advantage. A man of the cloth could offer them nothing but prayer, unless he was an extremely wealthy, influential priest from an old and renowned noble family. Though not as common as in previous centuries, some younger sons did enter the priesthood.

 

However, she knew that Cordelia was bluffing, even if Margaret did not. “You could be right, Lady Lucas. A lady who keeps her opinions to herself is exactly the kind of wife a priest would find agreeable.”

 

Glancing at Margaret out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that the girl’s expression remained impassive but one of her hands was clenched into a fist beneath the table. So it was possible to aggravate her, after all.

 

It took a few moments before the young lady spoke. “If you wish to make the greatest mistake of your life, then listen to her, Mother. But think about this. My elder sister is too quiet and prim to speak unless she is spoken to and then she will agree with whatever her husband says. She is betrothed to Lord Dorset. If a double Earl wishes for such a boring wife, then others of equal or higher rank will be overjoyed to have an enigmatic spouse whose very mysteriousness is enticing.”

 

"Don't speak of your sister that way, young lady!"  The Duchess' voice was stern an unyielding.

 

"I'm sorry, Mother, but that's the way I see her."  Margaret turned to Cordelia.  "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, are they not, Lady Lucas?"

 

 

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Cordelia smiled as she answered the Duchess.

"Indeed I do think so. Lady Margaret herself has set forth the example she wishes ALL to see her and I did not mean some country Parson Your Grace. There are many second and even third sons who have gone to The Church  - from Great and Noble Fmilies - who hold Positions that are substantial. And to align Cavendish to one would be most advantageous to both sides."

"If His Grace might be persuaded along those lines, well, then I should expect offers quickly."

Her gaze returned to the younger girl who showed no outard signs of agitation or any emotion actually. Yet Cordelia was not fooled. Underneath that oh so prim and proper exterior was someone who very much wanted to have her own way.

"Lady Margaret - in your description of your elder sister you had stated the very things that you seek to emulate - or was that description just for my benefit? Your words now betray another direction. Let me be clear so you have no misunderstandings."

She set her cup down without a sound and her words were firm in their saying.

"Your marriage will not be equal to either of your elder sisters nor will it be higher. Nor will your marriage outrank your Brothers' for HE is the heir."

"You are a third daughter and under old times would already have been marked for The Church and a life of solitude and prayer. A Bride of Christ."

"Luckly that is no longer required so you need not fear that."

She paused to let her words sink in.

 "Opinions? But my dear you yourself have made it clear that that is a road you have no interest in so this expressing of it is most confusing. You can not be two people so perhaps now might be the best time to make your True self known."

"Say it simply. No harm will come to you for doing it."

"Things will go much smoother if you understand that. And you will, naturally, be included in the process as I have already said. But the final decision belongs to the Duke."

"Mysterious? Enticing?"

Her eyes narowed a fraction as she leaned a bit forward in her chair to ask

"Who has spoken such words to you? Do you keep Company with those not known to your family? Do you see yoursef than as some Siren who is desirious of tempting men?"

Cordelia then looked to the Duchess clearly wanting an explanation of how such thoughts had been allowed or even fostered.

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Both Lady Newcastle and her daughter listened without interruption as Cordelia explained that Margaret would not marry higher than her sisters and that in medieval times, she would have been forced to become a nun. The Duchess usually didn’t allow other ladies to reprimand her daughters, but Lady Lucas was only trying to help and she had already gotten Margaret to reveal a bit about herself, even if she had insulted her sister. She would be punished for that later.
 

As for Margaret, Cordelia’s speech gave her time to compose herself. “I never said that a wife should be a dull drab little mouse who is afraid of her own shadow. No gentleman in his right mind would want a wife like that. I definitely have a mind of my own. I just prefer to keep my own council.”
 

Lady Newcastle pursed her lips. Yet again, Margaret had ridiculed Frances, but she said nothing. Once Cordelia was gone, the silly girl would feel her mother’s wrath.
 

“Yes, the final decision is up to His Grace,” Margaret continued. “I am a dutiful daughter and I will marry whomever he chooses for me. However, if a prince asks for my hand and the union will benefit our family, I doubt he would turn the offer down just because I would outrank my siblings. I know that there aren’t any English princes who are looking for wives. I just used that as an example. Even if I do marry lower than my sisters, my husband could rise both in rank and in wealth until he equals or surpasses theirs.”
 

She remained undaunted when Lady Lucas leaned toward her. Lifting her cup and taking a sip, she smiled. “How quick you are to think ill of me, my lady. I assure you I associate with nobody outside of my own circle. ‘Enticing’ does not always mean ‘seductive’ and ‘tempting.’ It also means ‘fascinating’ and ‘charming,’ which is the definition I used. If a gentleman’s wife intrigues and enchants him, he will be less likely to take a mistress.”
 

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It was becoming clear that Lady Margaret did indeed have a mind of her own and one that was filled with nonsense.

Cordelia directed her responses first to the Duchess.

"So your daughter has been allowed to educate herself  - either alone or in the company of those that share this foolishness - to the extent that she parades it unashamedly?"

"Her speech is full of words that someone of her inexperience should have no knowlwdge of let alone their meanings. To speak of having 'skills' that would tempt a husband to stay by her side and not seek a woman outside of the Marriage Bed gives rise to her own virtue - or lack thereof."

"Had you no idea Your Grace?"

"You must have her examined as soon as possible. There must be NO doubts. I will not be a part of any type of 'trickery' or falsehoods."

Cordelia doubted that Margaret's maidenhead had been touched and much of what she said no doubt came from what she had read but one had to be absolute. The reputation of Newcastle was at stake as well as her own.

"This is indeed a problem and now we must change course. She can hardly be offered as a suitable wife as she is. It might be possible to beat it out of her but I fear unsuccessful and would only encourage further disobedience. Her affectation of self-praise is hardly commendable."

She turned back to Lady Margaret giving a small shake of her head her gaze running over the girl.

"And I thought you had promise. What Prince would look at you? What Gentleman will align himself with a wife who has no shame and carrys an inflated idea of her own worth?"

"But I shall not give up. A husband will be found. One that can be 'persuaded' perhaps by the addition of more coin or some parcel of land that will not be missed by the Duke. But it will be a challange nonetheless."

 Cordelia was laying on the Dramatics to further provoke responses that would revel more of the girls true character the better to ascertain how it was to be handled.

If she was no virgin then she and the Duchess would have to leave off and have a private conversation as how best to proceed -  or not.

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The Duchess was as shocked as Lady Lucas at the words that came out of her middle daughter’s mouth. Was this who she really was, a wild girl like her eldest sister? Regardless of her unruly demeanor, Elizabeth had married a Duke. Margaret, despite her delusions of grandeur, would not be so lucky. The way she spoke, she would be more at home in a brothel than a mansion.
 

As mothers often do, Lady Newcastle blamed herself for her daughter’s strange notions. She had never asked any of her daughters to pass the books they read by her, trusting their good judgment. Apparently, Margaret had gotten her hands on novels that were inappropriate for young ladies. That must be where her opinions had come from.
 

She saw Margaret pale at the idea of being checked to make sure her maidenhead was still intact. At least she had the decency to be terrified of that prospect, as any young lady of excellent breeding would be. The Duchess wished to spare her the humiliation, but she didn’t think will be able to. “I will ask our family physician to stop by tomorrow,” she said.

 

Her daughter winced and seemed to shrink into her chair. “Please, Mother, no,” she pleaded. Lady Newcastle didn’t think that Margaret was faking her reaction. Not even the finest actress in the country could pull that off. She felt for the girl, but she had brought this upon herself. “You leave me no choice,” she replied.
 

A horrified look remained on Margaret’s face as Lady Lucas spoke of her lack of promise and her inflated sense of self worth. Finding a husband for her would be a challenge. At this point, the Duchess didn’t know if she was still bluffing or expressing her true point of view.
 

Without any warning, Margaret burst into tears. “I’m sorry,” she sobbed. “I’m not like that girl I described at all. I figured that the reason that gentlemen take mistresses is that their wives do not please them. So I thought that I would be considered a better catch if I feigned confidence and allure. I now realize my mistake.” Taking the napkin lying beside her saucer, she delicately wiped her tears away. “Please forgive me for pretending to be someone I am not.” She turned her red, blotchy face to Cordelia. “I promise I will answer your questions truthfully from now on. my lady.”

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Cordelia watched the little Tableau being played out half believing and half not. 

She let some moments pass before she answered.

"Silly girl - all that to now reduce yourself to tears and pleadings - and what are We to think hmmm? You are far too young to have developed any real Talent in acting yet show promise in the abality to change emotions. As for being deceitful, well, that is a thing best left to Your Lady Mother to handle."

"You assured that the Company you kept was above reproach so I am curious as to how you came by those ideas? From what books or persons?"

"Even if you do not answer truthfully it will still be found out - The Duchess is more than capable of discovery using resources at her disposal. Of course it would be faster to just question all in your Circle ..."

She looked across to the Duchess catching her eye.

"Your Grace I am not entirely convinced but for the moment I do not see the need in having your daughter 'examined'. If you might investigate first - to see who influenced and to what degree of familiarity - then I shall naturally do as you wish."

"I would spare your daughter that."

"It is too early to ask me for forgivemess Lady Margaret. Her Grace and I shall speak privately. I think some quiet time spent in reflection would be in order."

"Use it wisely Madam. Put truths together so that next we meet THIS is all avoided."

"Do not further shame your parents."

"Your Grace I would suggest this  ... "

"She is not my child. But if she were I would confine her to her set of rooms. Remove everything from there - books, papers, things of that nature. No visits. No trips outside. No Court Functions."

"Allow her to be in solitude for however long you wish but not without food naturally. Say a week or two? She must obey after all. Her display here today has shown what she is capable of and that must be broken."

"Let us see just see if her 'promise' to answer truthfull from now on is an honest one or just another turn of emotion."

Cordelia's manner still had a chill about it but she had relaxed her words. That Margaret was being truthful was probably correct for her palor could not have been faked and her reactions to being checked to prove she was a maiden still were also too real.

But it would do no harm to have her confined and if that aided in getting the Real Margaret to be finally revealed so much the better. Plus the Duchess needed to exert her Authority over her daughter to cut off any further ideas of rebellion.

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Lady Newcastle noted that Margaret did not answer Cordelia’s question. She seemed so upset and contrite that her mother felt sorry for her. And as Lady Lucas had said, the truth would be discovered. The Duchess would search her room again, this time more thoroughly. The culprit, she believed, was a book, or maybe more than one. Even in her own youth, books had existed that gave impressionable young ladies a false sense of their own power. A friend had once given one to her, but after a few pages, she had thrown it in the fireplace and watched it burn. To her, it’s content had been evil, a temptation from Satan to go against established rules.

 

She noticed the way Margaret’s breath whooshed out of her and how her muscles relaxed when Cordelia announced that she didn’t think an examination was necessary at this time. Lady Newcastle hoped that she was afraid of the humiliation and not that the test would prove that she wasn’t a virgin. She was accompanied by a chaperone at all times, and not once had the woman reported that she had slipped away from her.Margaret had not had the time to ruin herself unless the chaperone had lied so that she wouldn’t lose her job or Margaret had bribed her into keeping her mouth shut. The Duchess didn’t think that was the case, though. The woman had a reputation to uphold as well and she would never get another position if she was fired from the household of a Duke.

 

“Lady Lucas is right, Margaret. Go to your room. You will spend the rest of the day there in prayer and contemplation. When I come to check on you, I expect to see you kneeling.”

 

“Yes, Mother,” the girl replied, still dabbing at her eyes with the napkin. Standing up, she curtsied to Cordelia. “Thank you for pointing out the errors in my thinking, my lady,” she said. “I hope … no, I will change your opinion of me when we meet again.”

 

Once she had gone, Lady Newcastle listened to Cordelia’s suggestions, thinking that two weeks of isolation would drive her daughter mad. The Duchess herself would go insane if kept locked away that long. “She shall be punished and His Grace will not learn of her atrocious behavior,” she agreed. The Duchess understood the other woman’s anger. She had expected a dutiful daughter and had been presented with one who had outrageous ideas about marriage and her role in it. Lady Newcastle would not have her family disgraced by a disobedient daughter. She had already gone through that once already.

 

“Perhaps the fault is mine,” she sighed. “I have spent so much time preparing my older daughters for marriage and taking care of the younger two that I may have not spent enough time with my middle child. She never gave me any cause to worry about her, and she always seemed so cheerful and well-adjusted. Maybe she acted up today to punish me for what she sees as neglect. I shall pay more attention to her from now on. She certainly needs it.”

 

Lady Newcastle gazed straight into Cordelia’s eyes. “She also needs guidance, Lady Lucas, perhaps from an outside source. You know the traits that make a good wife. Will you take her under your wing and help me mold her into the demure and proper young lady we both know she can be? She wants your approval, and she might listen better to you than to her own mother.”

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Cordelia remained silent but watchful.

 Lady Margaret was not yet to be fully believed and she also needed to be brought back under the thumb of her Mother - daughters were the property of Fathers until marriage then they belonged to Husbands -  this lesson needed to be enforced to prevent future outbreaks.

She was rather amused by the leave-taking of the girl but nevertheless gave a small nod of her head to signify she had heard.

Silence. 

The Duchess then began to self-blame and Cordelia heard her out.

"You must not do that Your Grace - for tis clear that every effort has been applied as to her teachings in General and yet how can a Mother know all?"

"Why think back to Times Past when WE were of this age and all that was offered up for our study!"

"Books. Trubados Tales and Stories ....  All manner of things that tempted. Even I was swayed by books and and the words of others' as is Lady Margaret yet recovered. Perhaps you as well?"

"You might also look amongst the Company she keeps - those girls she frequents either here or at some other place?"

 "Such a gathering naturally includes gossip and tales and who knows what - tis easy to slip a book in and learn all manner of things that she has no business to know. Yet."

"A new Tutor with 'Ideas' from the Continent perhaps or even a Dancing Master! No matter how innocent it may appear a Man left alone with tender blossoms breeds troubles. Especially one that is not known to Your Grace."

As for the request she did not at once answer back her but held the others' gaze.

"It will be a great under-taking Your Grace." Said with a slow shaking of her head. "Lady Margaret indeed needs Guidance as you say ...."

She would wait for the Duchess to reply then give her answer. Drawing it out served her own purpose better anyway.

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Most mothers blamed themselves for their children’s bad behavior. If only they had done something different, if only they had noticed the signs, if only they had given their children more attention. It was a mother’s job to raise her child to be a good and responsible adult, so therefore any misconduct was solely their fault. Only with age and experience would they discover that their children developed their own personalities and that nothing their parents did or said could make them go against their nature. It was better to accept and embrace them as they were rather than try to mold them into somebody that they could never be.

 

Lady Newcastle wanted to believe Cordelia but it was difficult. It was true that she had done everything possible to make certain that all her daughters were well-educated and skilled in the social graces. They had been taught from the cradle that they were their father’s property and must obey him in all things, including marrying the gentleman he chose for them with no questions asked. And after they were wed, they were under their husband’s authority. They must please him and conduct themselves properly or they could still bring disgrace upon their family and his as well.

 

Not wanting Lady Lucas to think she was self-righteous, the Duchess said nothing about burning the only inappropriate book she had seen. Instead, she simply nodded. If such a respectable matron such as Cordelia could be swayed by such things and realize the error of her ways, there was hope for Margaret too. However she had come by that false information, it needed to be expelled from her mind. Perhaps the thought of being examined to see whether or not she was a virgin had scared those notions out of her.

 

“Her friends are all from good families. Her chaperone reports to me every day and tells me about Margaret’s activities, from where she goes to who she spends time with. Perhaps one of them put those ideas into her head. I shall make some discreet inquiries. All of my children’s tutors were screened carefully, but anyone can be fooled by those who are adept at deceit. I don’t believe she has met a gentleman in secret because her chaperone never leaves her side. I suppose one could have sneaked in through a window into her room, but that’s rather unlikely.”

 

Cordelia didn’t immediately agree to Lady Newcastle’s suggestion but did acknowledge that Margaret did need guidance. “You are kin, Lady Lucas, and I know that I can trust you. You are the perfect lady to guide Margaret into becoming an asset to our family. I think she will listen to you more than to me. If you will mentor my daughter, I will be forever in your debt.”

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"Well as careful as you may have been girls are clever and THAT is a thing not changed even in our times. Tis an easy thing as I have said for books or even notes to be passed under even the most watchful of a chaperone's eye."

"Perhaps you are in need of a new set of 'watchful eyes'? The one you employ could have too soft a heart and easily complies. It happens."

She hid her smile. Well Well! It would seem her actions might be starting to pay off. And they must continue.

"You flatter Your Grace. I am hardly such a Paragon!"

She smiled and quielty rose from her seat and went to take the empty chair beside the Duchess.

"How kind your words are and how could I not help? We are, as you say, Kin and so naturally I shall do all I can."

She laid one hand softly on the other womans' arm in a gesture of Sympathy.

"Let us work together and given Time I firmly believe that Lady Margaret will indeed become an asset."

"She is young and tests the waters to see how far she can go. She has had her answer today and after she has spent time in quiet reflection then I shall begin again."

"I shall leave my list of those I think suitable. Read thru them at your leisure and then let us meet and discuss. The Season has yet to begin in full and after Easter things will be lively again!"

"We can conspire and plan out our Campaign - for it will be much like a Battle I think as your daughter is strong willed despite her claims otherwise."

Cordelia was satisfied.

The Duchess would fall in with whatever she suggested that much was clear. Manipulation was so much easier that way.

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The Duchess pondered Lady Lucas’ suggestion. Margaret’s chaperone had come with several references and all of them had been checked thoroughly. There had been no complaints and she had been praised for how well she had taken care of her charges. She had only been dismissed from her previous positions when those charges had been wed. Whether the girls were model wives, she did not know, nor had she inquired about them. Maybe the woman had been responsible for filling their heads with silly notions.

 

She was Catherine’s chaperone too and the Duchess made a mental note to speak with her younger daughter about her. Catherine was much more open than Margaret and her mother could usually tell when she was lying by the look in her eyes. That child was not skilled at hiding her emotions, but she was only thirteen. Her marriage was still a few years off. Because of Margaret’s strange behavior today, she vowed to take a larger hand in making certain her younger daughters stayed on the right path. She should have learned that lesson already because of what had occurred with Elizabeth, but she had not thought that anything similar would happen to her other daughters.  There was still hope for Margaret.

 

Flattery was a diplomatic ploy Lady Newcastle had used many times, but she truly meant what she said about Cordelia. She had looked into her activities since she had been at court, and had asked several people what they thought about her. The woman had an impeccable reputation and everybody who knew her appeared to hold her in high esteem.

 

The Duchess was pleased that Lady Lucas agreed to help her guide Margaret in the right direction. That they were only related by marriage didn’t matter to her; after all, she was only related to her husband’s family by marriage as well. She appreciated Cordelia’s gentle touch on her arm. The Baronetess was a caring and compassionate woman and together they would be able to mold Margaret into a young lady who would have gentlemen beating down the door hoping to wed her.

 

Perhaps a friendship would even grow between the two ladies as they worked with each other. “She will have plenty of time to ponder her actions,” she promised. “And I agree that it’s a bit premature to go through your list today. I would liked to look at it, though.”

 

Lady Newcastle liked the way Cordelia referred to their collaboration as a campaign. In a way, it was exactly that. They would have to wage war against Margaret’s obstinacy. There were reasons why she had voiced such inappropriate ideas. They had not simply popped into her head in an instant.

 

“Shall we meet again after Easter, perhaps on Tuesday or Wednesday?”

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Cordelia watched the play of emotions from the Duchess secure that everything would go to Plan.

"I am glad that you think my words were good Council. It is a most trying time for you - with planning Frances' wedding and all. Is there a date yet? Will you hold it at Court ...."

A nice change of topic yet still within their purpose of meeting.

"Let me think. I have some appointments  ...." She said falsely. "Let us agree upon Wednesday? Shall I come here again - it is no trouble."

She smiled and rose to retake her chair sitting calmly one hand reaching for her cup only to find it had gone cold.

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“Nothing has been finalized yet,” Lady Newcastle said about the wedding. She did not volunteer any more information about the marriage of her second and favorite daughter. Her enthusiasm for the upcoming event had caused her to neglect at least one of her younger children. She was determined now to spend more time with all three of them and include Margaret and Catherine in the planning of their sister’s wedding so they wouldn’t feel left out. Arabella was too young to be helpful, but she loved for her mother to read her stories.

 

“Wednesday is fine. We can discuss things over lunch. Maybe I’ll let Margaret join us.”

 

Cordelia sat back down and reached for her cup. “Shall I send for more?” the Duchess asked. She had no pressing matters to attend to and didn’t mind having another cup of tea with the lady who had promised to help her mold her middle daughter into a perfect wife.

 

(OOC: Shall we leave them enjoying tea together or continue onward?)

 

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"Than I shall call Wednesday at the same time as today."

Cordelia smiled and nodded to more tea content to remain and talk of other things if the Duchess preferred.

 

(ooc: lets let them talk and pick this up again at some point)

 

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