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EASTER 1678 | A rousing evening with Her Royal Majesty (8th)

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Karoline approved of the suggestion put forth by Bishop Compton,  while her young friend Lady Dorothea practically gushed with excitement about it; "And Lord Kingston thinks it's a fine idea, which just goes to show you that everyone shall love it, for he would know!" 

And so it was settled - this, a very rare instance of the Queens Presence room becoming the location for a court event.

 

Queens Presence Room

The Queen’s Presence Room mirrored that of the King’s, in that it was open to all gentry and wealthy merchants. It was a spacious room, able to seat 40, but a welcoming one, decorated in warm red that was nicely accented by the ivory upholstery of the seats and decorative gilding. The central focus of the room was an elevated couch, reserved for the Queen, with a scattering of chairs near it as well as other groupings of seats settled around the room for attending courtiers. 

The rounded tables and cupboards around the desk held bouquets of flowers as well as busts of various historical figures – Aristotle, Copernicus, Julius Caesar, Sappho, Dido and others. Leading further from the room were two doors on the far side of the room. The door to the left would take one to the Queen’s Drawing room and the one on the right to the Queen’s private parlour that guarded the entrance to the Queen’s bedroom and closet.

 

Tonight the 40 odd chairs had been rearranged into a grand circle, with Her Majesty’s favourite chair obviously placed at the top.  But Her Majesty was not arrived just yet (with some manner of final preparations being done) but already Royalist Courtiers were arriving and snapping up seats, soon there would be standing room only! 

 

One of Courts Matrons had arrived particularly early to secure one of those seats; and now sat with crochet needle busily dipping into a cotton thread creation, near her side (but standing) was a miserable looking girl.  "Smile Elizabeth!" Lady Campden had no idea of what had gotten into her charge lately! 

Another pair of early arrivals had been Lord and Lady Angelsey, their continued existence surprised some people.  How old were this crepe-y couple?!   "Arthur I want to sit near the door!" said the old woman in a whisper that was louder than she was aware.  "Yes darling." the finely boned gent assisted her,  "In case I grow bored, I shall want to be able to leave easily of course." 

A group of young, moustachioed (& bored!) men also arrived quite early, the scent of liquor on breaths still as they chuckled and chatted amongst themselves. 

Slowly but surely the room begun to fill..

 

Next arriving was the tall dark haired and handsome figure of Lord Winchelsea.  He remained stood, his eyes alert around the room for a certain Ladies appearance.

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Quietly opening one door of the Queen's Drawing room to peer inside the other room one of the Queen's Maids of Honor took a quick glance then just as quietly closed the door. She turned back to face the room and said

"And its as dull as dishwater in there. Honestly I had expected there to be Gentlemen   ..."

"You are far too impatient Alyce. Dull or not we should be Grateful that any have come to our side after so long an absence."

" After all Lady Dorethea has been gushing over this for days and as she has far more information then we about whats to come I will wager you will be more than occupied."

The voice belonged to Davina Wellsley who stood before one of the many mirrors looking at herself with a practiced critical eye. Adjusting the drape of curls about her left shoulder and straightening the pearl teardrop earring she smiled at her reflection pleased with her look.

She was not one of those vain women that preened for hours then sulked when not enough complements were received but still given the circumstances she wanted to be well presented.

She wore a new gown of pale Ivory brocade patterned with small flowers set against a black stripe on both underskirt and overskirt. The bodice was square cut and lower than what had been "in fashion' last year with a ruffle around the top of the neckline, around the bottom of the bodice and down either side of the overskirt then across the flounce at the bottom of her underskirt. The outfit was completed by a solid black bow center front then just above the ruffle at the elbow on each arm. The center of which held a sparkling cluster of small diamonds - paste to be sure but who was to know -  a strand of double pearls about her neck and around her right wrist. She was subtile and not at all ostentatious.

"I shall venture out then ...." 

Opening the doors she sailed thru closing them softly behind her. Her gaze swept the room as she moved with assurance yet kept a dignified pace making it appear that she was but simply 'checking' which would be a part of her Duties. Her eye caught the form of Lord Winchelsea and she hid a smile. She went firstly to Lord and Lady Angelsey, made her curtsey adding her name and asked if all was well, and said she would send a servant to see to their needs if one was needed. She did not linger past Politness but excused herself then to Lady Campden where she repeated her curtsey but not quite as low and added her name smiling at the girl who was clearly NOT happy .....  She ignored the grouping of younger men and at last went towards the Gentleman.

"My Lord."

Her eyes met his and she smiled then reached out for his arm as her shoe slipped a little  ....

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Daniel & Davina

When he finally saw her his eyes savoured.  She looked practically bridal in her cream, and that deep seated hunger for her flared again.  Was she truly as virginal as the now seemed (the kiss they had shared suggested at least some experience) 

She took her time, moving gracefully around the room - with apparent attention to her duties, greeting this one and that.   Daniel smirked to himself that in fact she was gifting him a fullest viewing of her every curve and shape from any given angle.  Her slender neck, her wrist held just so, her waist so neat, the drape of her curls that tumbled about.

And surely she could feel the Earls eyes appreciation, long long before she turned towards him and their eyes met. 

“Were you saving the best for last?” he teased, bowing over her hand he placed a perfectly proper-for-pubic kiss, while as he arose his eyes were dancing in a highly improper way. “You look divine, a veritable angel on this saintly day, I am awed.”

Words nearly whispered

“It is times like this I am most grateful of the lords sacrifice, for though him my sins may be forgiven." dropping his voice quieter still, "the sight of you incites the devil in me.”

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Her hand fell away and was taken up for his Salute and her little curtsey followed her eyes sparkling as she quipped back.

"The Best? They have not arrived yet - but I shall point them out ..."

"Such honey'd words fall so easily and I wonder if I should accept such a lofty Status. Yet I am compelled in honesty to declare I am hardly Angelic."

She had matched his delivery and her own voice had lowered yet her smile was firmly displayed.

"Yet if you seek to play the Devil then I can hardly dissuade. Indeed it would be most unfair of me too ..."

She inched a bit closed her scent a new one wafting in the space between. Gone was her typical floral replaced with the aroma of spice and wood smoke that hinted of far off Lands.

"Should I paly along?"

She teased him her blue eyes moving to stare at his mouth before she turned half way to face out into the room calm and undisturbed.

Inside she was like a cauldron upon a fire all bubbly. His nearness and scent made her yearn for what she had missed all these weeks. A little harmless flirting never hurt.

But she was knew it was deeper than that. It was an itch that needed to be scratched. 

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Winchilsea chuckled, eyes dancing at her tease.  Such a playful and spirited girl!  “Please do, I would be most grateful of your guidance – though I can hardly think how I‘d ever repay you.” while the knowing glint in his eyes betrayed his notions on that.  

To her clam that she was not angelic, well. Well there could be quite nothing more pleasing to this rogues ears.  “Might I say then, that there are innumerable levels that exist between one and another, a veritable smorgasbord of delights you may say. A seasoned traveller like myself savours each for it’s joy… and yet, it is not a route best traveled alone, nor rushed”

His voice was low, soft, inviting, “Yes my sweet Lady, do please play along.  Let me delight in the imagining of the commencement of a journey, with my lips kiss upon the quickening pulse at your wrist.”  Her fragrance was not the girlish kind, but the exotic and erotic kind.  While his own, a soapy lemony-lime, his shave so very close it can only have been done within the past hour.

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"Guidance? Well I am unsure and so doubt that I would be of much help for you. Perhaps it should be reversed? You are I believe far more experienced."

Let him imagine what he would of her own experiences. She did not intend to broadcast her own set of Skills this early on.

"Yes in some things tis better to go slowly. Not to rush. And traveling is always made better with Company."

She deliberately misunderstood his meanings.

She turned to look at him directly her eyes going to his her small smile an invitation to draw his glance to her own mouth as she whispered

"I have always enjoyed playing Games and I also like to Win. And so do You. What I wonder will be the outcome?"

"You may 'imagine' all you wish My Lord. But do not be over-confident of such an easy victory."

That they both wanted the same thing was clear yet she would not be tipped so quickly into his arms. He must work and be rewarded.

"I have lingered over long and neglect those that are arriving. Seek me out again ..."

Her hand went up for him to kiss and at the last moment she turned it palm upward so that his hand would block the view knowing that he would press his lips to her pulse point.

It would be but seconds and she would then turn away not looking back. Secure that he was hooked. 

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As to 'guidance' he referred to her tease that she would point out the 'best she saved for last' when they arrived.  But that topic became tangled with the flirtation...

Davina revealed she liked to win.  "If I have learnt nothing else in my life, it is that a ladies satisfaction is paramount." crooned the Earl, "you must only tell me how many times you want to win, twice, thrice, or even more. And I shall set my mind diligently to that task." his eyebrow rose, it was difficult to repress a wolfish smile.

It did not seem to bother the gentleman that they were stood in the most unlikely locale (and date) for a flirtation, but then more eyes would be on the Queens lady than him at that point.  It was likely with that good sense that Davina choice to cut the exchange short. 

"You have my promise."  Daniel bowed a second time, pressing his lips to her complicit wrist, a darting of tongue leaving a moist patch there.  

He was content to watch her walk away, even her back view was a sight to behold, better yet now that he was certain she was hooked.

 

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Lady Oakham arrives:

In cascades of pink silk peppered with red rosettes, Darlene glided into the presence room, head erect and hands neatly clasped before her - her shoulders never the less swinging with a confidence.  It was a wonderous thing to rebegin with such a large knowledge base as hers. She was certain she was going to do far more brilliantly than ever before, and her prior career had been spectacular!  Until her most unfortunate demise, but nuf said about that.

The court beauty smiled around the room before discovering Davina, her swanning trajectory was then altered, and course set to encounter her. "Mistress Wellesley, greetings this Good Friday.  Might you relay my gratitude to Her Majesty for the invitation -it is such a treat to attend."  

On a scale of one to ten Davina was probably a nine when it came to being a good Anglican (That being a scale where Darlene placed herself at the top, and Mr Killigrew at the bottom.)  Easter weekend was all about out-churching each other, and Darlene’s scale held ample room for movement this way or that.  Call it a game if you will, the entire of Darlene's life was a game.   

"Have you prepared your own verse yet?" 

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Intent upon seking out why more of the Maids had not appeared she was interrupted by the effervescent Lady Oakham.

"Lady Oakham. Welcome. " She offered her curtsey her eyes taking in the others' attire on a smile. "I shall indeed Madam. It is good that it appears that so many accepted."

"Indeed I have. Do you known those present? I shall be happy to provide introductions  ...."

She gave a quick glance towards the Earl then pointedly moved a bit so that he was 'blocked' from the view of the Viscountess.

"Or perhaps you simply wish to be seated?"

She would initiate the direction if the other wished.

As to why she had made that gesture regarding Winchilsea she did not know. 

'curious indeed. it is not as if you have coupled already and can lay some ownership' 

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"Correct me if I am wrong, but is this not the first event her Majesty has personally held?"  The topic of parties, whose and when, was one dear to Darlene.  Even if this was not so much a party really. "If but for that fact alone I am sure it shall be hugely popular.  Are we not all learning the manner of our new Queen still? Oh, but you of course know much already, being in your favored position." she smiled. 

Darlene had never held such ambitions, neither towards the Queens Household nor the Kings - but she was more than happy to have a friend in this one or that. 

With a delicate shake of head and brush of hand she declined, "I am in no rush to sit yet, but rather it is a delight that we get to see each other again. How did you find the House of Lords session?  I had meant to catch up with you again after. But was drawn off in the press of crowds."  That Davina angled herself did not count as anything to Darlene.  

 

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The adjacent door to The Queens more private apartments then opened, and a further grouping of Her Majesties ladies entered.  Younger ones, namely Lucy, Dorothea and Agnes - this was the first proper duty they had had for some weeks (as the elder ones had claimed Karoline’s side) - entering the room the trio disbanded, moving to talk to this guest and that...

   

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"Well one that is Religious in nature of a certanity! But timing arranges this as it is Good Friday after all. I wonder how well the assembled Company will survive."

Said with some sarcasm carefully hidden by her smile.

"Hardly "favored' Lady Oakham I assure you. I am an unmarried attendant and thus regulated to the fringes. I need to marry to elevate to Presence. Everything is done by Rank as you well know."

Since it appeared they would remain in place Davina was fine with conversation. 

"Frankly my thoughts strayed so I am sure I missed what I should have not. Plus Baptist May sought me out so that added as well."

She did not expand any further. Nor would she.

"How have you been My Lady? There are new faces all about Court."  

From the corner of her eye she saw the entrance of the others' and so added

"Ah. At last. The Duchess is also with child. This event is partly encouraged by Lady Dorothea and as she too is German I suspect will no doubt Shine all the brighter to Her Majesty."

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Posted (edited)

Darlene giggled at Davina's sarcasm (the lady was snappier than she had previously guessed!) 

"Yet favoured still. Unless -  you do not suppose that just anyone may apply and be accepted do you? Why, do you think I ought aspire?" which was an entirely novel idea to Darlene.  She'd had so very many brilliant ideas in her life, but never ever had she thought of this one Davina  suggested.   Blinking, she hesitated. Was it truly a brilliant idea if it had not originated in her own mind?

"Oh but I am not sure."  

Pretty Darlene looked to Davina for her opinion on the matter. 

"Ooh yes, I saw May approached. I was sat not so far behind you did you know? What a interesting fellow he must be, dreadfully private I think for I know quite nothing about him.  He talked to my Lord Earl brother once, but then I heard no more of that from anyone. I think it was something about the Saint George honours list.  Ooh Davina, do you think you may be elevated next?" Darlene happily gushed, distracted little by the arrival of other of the Queens maids, and one of them being Louis' little sister. 

"It would be nice to become a Duchess wouldn’t it." was all the comment on that she made.  What a pity Charles is not a Duke. 

 

 

Edited by Darlene Hamilton

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Viscount Lowther arrives.

The past few days' religious observances made him feel as though he was living an almost monastic life. When he had heard of the evening's event - albeit one very much in keeping with the proper mode of behavior for the time - he was most intrigued and determined to go for two reasons. First, it was to be held in the Queen's Presence Room and no opportunity to attend the Palace (for gawping) should go unattended. Secondly, as an event sponsored by the Queen, it would surely be attended by the very cream of the feminine crop of courtiers and so, under a guise of proper piety, he could surely peer at and observe the array of women, virtuous or otherwise, who would surely be there.

Although the event was religiously inspired, he had decided that the fact it was not in a church setting meant that he could have more liberty to dress in happier fashion which would surely be appreciated, rather than him turning up like the ghost at the feast, looking like something out of Calvin's Geneva, cloaked in black head to foot like an ink-stained, knock-kneed, evangelical lawyer. To that end, he had rummaged through his travelling case and selected one of the finer pieces therein. A scarlet jacket with matching wide breeches, coupled with a cream waistcoat whose floral tracing had, alas, been faded through time. He had tied his hair back for the evening, and clutched his hat under one arm and in the other carried his trusty, battered, old Prayer Book. A sliver of paper had been jammed in at the relevant part for if he was called upon to deliver a verse.

The room was already quite full. Most of the seats looked taken so Lowther expected he would have to ingratiate himself into a standing position as close as he could to the centre of activity. This he would be sure to do with his gruff northern manner - a few "excuse me's" but not afraid to step on delicate toes.

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Davina smiled - how could she not - at how little Lady Oakham had changed despite all the termoil of Last Season!

"Well .... Her Majesty will soon go into confinement and then we here shall have even less to do ... Maids will not follow into confinement naturally ... so I have no idea as to occupation."

A small shrug of one shoulder followed her words.

"Yet once Her Majesry returns to Public Duties there might well be openings."

"You are a Viscontess after all so the Presence would be suitable. But before ANY talk goes further you needs must win over Lady Mountjoy for tis She that has the Queen's ear fully. And THAT will be no easy task."

Davina did not add that the actuality of such a thing happening was slim at best - the Queen would not find Lady Oakham at all Suitable based upon just her Reputation alone.

"Me? Well I would need to Marry for that kind of Elevation Lady Oakham but who knows I suppose anything is possible providing I find the right man!"

and I thought I had. I thought I had found him. but alas no.

"Oh? You plan to remarry then? Well available Dukes are hard to find as all are taken so I think. But a son who's next to inherit is best but there are only two - Norfolks Heir who's twenty and two and his brother Thomas who is twenty."

" Newcastle has an heir but he is younger than you Lady Oakham. And as for the rest of the Peers down to Barons ... almost all are younger as well."

"But then perhpas you have chosen a Gentleman already?"

Her eye was caught by another arrival and she gave the Gentleman a quick once over then asked her companion

"Do you know that Gentleman? I have not seen his face afore and judging by his attire he is new-come to Court." 

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Darlene & Davina

When Davina explained that her already restricted role was about to get even quieter, Darlene’s mind was made.  “But I would die of boredom!”  

Which was probably a grateful exit from the idea, because really, how might Darlene serve the queen when her own ideas were so big.  There would be arguments for sure. And… it did not take much thought for the vicountess to know that would be a terrible idea for all concerned.

That said, Darlene’s expression changed some at the mention of Lady Mountjoy.  “M-hmm.” And she became unusually quiet on that score. Lady Mountjoy was no challenge to her, she thought, or at least that was her stance when it came to the woman’s Lord Husband.  Not that Darlene intended a confrontation - ever.

 

“Well I might.” Of marriage she replied with a wink.  Davina was the perfect person to talk about such a topic, for she knew the gossip about every bachelor in Whitehall.

“Perhaps an Earl or Viscount would suit us instead?” Darlene was using a 'we', because she believed Davina to be as much on the prowl as herself.  “The coming war is bound to result in some elevations for service. If not to Dukedom, then Marquis.  Hmm, but really, I shall most want a husband of character.  Newcastles boy would never do, not for either of us I would pose.” And she looked to Davina for her comment on that.

Last time Darlene had spoken to Henry jr. he was hopeless, and seemed the sort of youth that was never going to grow up or mature.  He’d be hard work any woman thinking to marry him - to one day become a Duchess for it was not reward enough!

Was it timely then, given their topic, that a entirely unknown prospect then arrived?  Darlene’s sparkling blue eyes swung with Davina’s to appreciate Roberts entering the room…

“Oh my, he is not twelve.” Darlene softly crooned, from the distance at least the gentleman held that instant sort of mystery-appeal. “We ought to go welcome him don’t you think, lets not rush, but quick before someone else gets him.”   Plucking up the edge of her skirts (an action more commonly used to avoid tripping on fabric as a lady climbed stairs, but in this case only flirtatiously reveal pink satin slipper) Lady Oakham glanced to her companion before setting their new intercepting course…

The Ladies accost greet Lowther

Naturally Davina held right to make introductions since she was officially attatched to the setting – with Darlene all smiles.     

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Darlene and Davina

"Well that all depends upon how Clever one is I suppose. Yet I will admit that boredom is a serious consequence that even I suffer from."

On the question of Marriage Lady Oakham did not seem adverse.

"Well as to any 'elevations' this War will have to have been won afore that happens. As to suitable candidates only Time will tell."

"No. He is not." Davina concurred as she assessed him again. He was not without some positives at least at first look but no doubt his flaws would all to soon be revealed.

Lady Oakham was, as always, quick to fire up so Davina smiled her answer for she was curious as well.

Greeting Lowther

They were soon within conversational distance and Davina took the lead.

"Good evening. Yours is a new face and as such you might be feeling somewhat lost. Might I help?'

"I am Mistress Wellsley attached to her Majesties Household as a Maid of Honor and tis one of my 'Duties' this eve to make all attending comfortable."

She offered the Man a small reverance her smile charming and welcoming. She left out any "My Lord or Sir' until it was proven that he was indeed a Gentleman and a Peer.

He could well be some invited Clergyman of middling means so it was really to save any embarrassment or explanations. 

"Allow me to present Lady Hamelton, Viscountess Oakham. She too would offer assistance."

Davina had purposly provided the others' correct form of address as a clue for him. It was up to Lady Oakham to set him straight regarding her current status.

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Lowther & The Ladies

For a man who had faced cannon fire without flinching (or, flinching too obviously), it was bizarre that he could find himself made nervous by the approach of two beautiful young women who shocked him by making a line straight over to him. Good grief, the women of Court were bold. He would have expected it would be the duty of men to accost them but instead, here they were, taking an inquisitive interest in a new arrival. Did he really look that lost? He was confident that their talk of making themselves of assistance was purely genuine and good natured rather than a coy attempt at making him feel uncomfortable for putting decidedly un-Easterly images in his mind. If it was the latter, then jolly well done.

"Mistress Wellesley," he said, taking in her name and giving a gentle bow in greeting, rumbling out the name in his low Yorkshire burr. "Lady Oakham," he said, offering her the same greeting, taking both of them in as he did so. Both elegantly dressed. His sisters would surely cut off their right arm to have a wardrobe with items like theirs.

"Well met and good evening to you both. It is kind of you to offer to guide me in these waters. I am only sorry that I must stick out like a floundering ship! Is it really that obvious that I am a newcomer?"

He scanned around the room and it was pretty abundantly clear, even to a man not schooled in fashion, that what he was wearing was not akin to those of the young bucks, lounging at the peripheries of the room. In fact, on closer inspection, it seemed he had more in common with the grey haired old men in their attire. He felt a sinking feeling of having committed a somehow possibly grievous mistake without being aware of it. Were the ladies here to mock him? He hoped not! However, he had read the scurrilous pamphlets about the fast and loose ways of Court women and their love of wit and jokes. He didn't want to be the butt of any! Well, in such circumstances it paid not to be a prude.

He tugged at the fabric of his coat. "Is it because I have come in dressed like our fathers?"

He smiled and gave them both another bow. "Robert, Viscount Lowther, at your service, ladies. Your charity in helping a clearly lost fellow will surely be well rewarded at this time of year."

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Darlene might have happily talked about men with Davina for simply hours, it was such a fun topic after all.   But talk switched from theory to practical, as the young women espied a fellow flesh and blood. New to court surely (neither recognised him!) and that could mean only one thing.  He was here to secure himself a wife!

Alternatively he was here for the most Holy Days of the year, or then again, to take his seat at the lords.  But those other options were far less relevant to these lovely and available brunettes! Thus summarily dismissed.

Lowther & The Ladies

The Vicountess' skirts rustled pleasantly in curtsy.  Darlene was entirely content with Davina’s introduction,  her smile was warm and broad as she offered her hand. “Enchantee…” Oh yes all the most stylish women used French like that, even when they were on the verge of war. 

Batting her lashes, she gave a laugh at the dry humour Robert then revealed.  “Ooh but Mistress Davina, do we look like school marms ready to correct and scold?!” she teased before looking to the gent to give him a playful wink. 

“As it just happens, my well met Lord Lowther, we were just despairing of the far too young sorts.  Why isn’t it true Mistress Davina, didn’t I just delight ‘he is not twelve?’.  So it happens that any likeness to our Papas you might carry by costume, only enhances your appeal. And we, so wanting for mature conversation.”  

Darlene was more than happy to flirt with Robert, even if she was practically engaged to Langdon, and almost had a lover in Mountjoy. She was broad minded that way.  

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Lowther & The Ladies

Davina watched as Lady Oakham worked her charm with amusement. When she could she added her own comments

"Indeed Lord Lowther Lady Oakham is correct she did reference your age with enthusiasm. But I must add that you hardly inspire me to thoughts of a Paternal Nature but rather of a Gentleman whos traveled far and has made his way here ."

"You are well-suited for the Occassion Sir so do not fret upon it."

Her smile was a soft one and she appraised him closer. She had to look up for he was taller than she and he had blue eyes. She wondered what his natural hair color was beneath his periwig. She guesses he was some seven or eight years her Senior.

"Where have you come from Lord Lowther? Are you alone or do you have Relatives already at Court?"

She was direct in her fishing where once she would have edged about. Why waste Time. How he answered would determine any further doings.

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Lowther & The Ladies

It was a good thing Lowther was not holding a drink as he would likely have choked on it in surprise. By Gad, this was not the sort of conversation he had imagined at what was essentially a bible study session. Not, of course, that he minded at all, save that he felt somewhat awkward clutching the battered old prayer book which he now tried, carefully, to slip into his pocket. Somehow he felt as though the Lord would be more angry if he engaged in jollity during the occasion whilst he clutched the Holy Word.

"Lady Oakham, if my parents had been wise enough to have employed a tutor like yourself, I imagine I would have learned for more. Or, maybe, far less but would still feel better off for it!" There was an uncomfortable conflict in his mind now between the more godly vision of a chastised Christ, suffering for the sins of Mankind, competing with the altogether more earthly vision of this fine lady dispensing chastisement of a different kind. Forgive me, O Lord, he thought to himself - albeit without much conviction.

He looked around the room again with a smirk. It was true, the majority of the fellows he could see did look as though they had only just taken to shaving. Done up like Bourbon princes in luscious fabrics, practically oozing with "elegance" and "refinement." They were doubtless great heroes at the card table and in the billiard room but he couldn't imagine how well they might do slogging it for hours on a forced march, digging trenches in siege lines, or standing against the blast of cannon fire. Maybe their mettle would be tested soon, if the country was as close to the brink of war as he was led to believe it was. Up North these fellows would get short shrift too. It was unlikely they would last a day of hard riding across the moorlands, in the bitter wind and rain. He was sure that his judgment of them would be fully returned by them - imagining him some up-country lout, albeit of the titled kind.

"I hope none of them are in your class, Lady Oakham? Although I am sure they could do with some lessons in the practical kind. Snappy dressers, by all means, but you have to wonder if they're all flesh and no muscle, as we say back home?"

The ladies, both dazzlingly similar in their style, did seem different in their own ways, he thought. Lady Oakham was (even to his male slowness on the uptake) a clear flirt who was definitely the time of woman who knew her effect on men. A lady who he was sure was hours of fun and with whom he would be delighted to know further. However, he was equally intrigued by Mistress Wellesley. Her manner seemed more direct. With women like Lady Oakham you knew you were like a ball of wool being played with by a cat, you were clearly the toy. Mistress Wellesley, on the other hand...

"I wouldn't want to bore you with my life stories, ladies. I am newly arrived in London but plan to make it my home. I came by way of my estates in Yorkshire. My brother, the late Viscount, orbited Court but I don't think he ever got very much into it, he was not the sort of person to engage much in the company of others. When he died, I was soldiering in the Low Countries."

He waved his hand airily, as if dismissing it as nothing when, in truth, there had been more than a few episodes of danger and adventure, even if that was set amongst years of mundane dullness.

"All mud and cheese with holes in it."

"And what about you both? I cannot imagine that two such fine ladies as yourselves spend your days solely in bible study?"

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Lowther & The Ladies

How splendidly it was going - Darlene was pleased at how she and Davina worked together.  By her reckoning one complimented the other very well.  Davina as a companion,  might even be more harmonious than Heather - for Heather did go that bit too far sometimes. (Davina for instance, would just never climb under a banquet table and tie shoelaces.)  

"Ooo now hush Lord Lowther, before I enrol you for this very semester." Darlene teased, and was that a book in his hand? It was a tell tale size.  Blinking, the pretty lady tipped her head, "oh yes..." she remembered the theme of the evening, which further reminded her that Davina had not answered her on that question earlier.  To the gent she then said. "You have prepared a verse already? I have mine." 

All flesh and no muscle' was an unheard of saying, she was not quite sure what it meant. But then Darlene was not the most classically educated lady, it made as much sense to her as talk of Greek gods and all that. His comments tone made her sad for those hapless fellows though, spurring her reply: "They might versatile minions, if one has a hankering, I would suppose?" Darlene looked towards those moustachioed men. 

She distracted briefly on those lads across the room (idly considering setting them to her bidding, which woudl probably make them terribly happy), while Davina lodged the important questions. 

Davina's questions were precisly why Davina was an exceptional counter operative, routing out necessary intelligence in a forthright manner that Darlene (despite her seeming boldness) would never directly ask.  Idly curling a lock of hair around her finger, Darlene let her gaze slid back to the new arrival, a curious eyebrow raised while a relaxed smile played on her lips.

'Well there you go', her eyes slid to Davina then, wondering what the Queens lady made of that? 

One point most particularly stood out to Darlene... "I knew it." she admired, "you have the bearing of a man used to a uniform. Do you think you shall want to join the Kings Lifeguards?" 

And then he said another odd saying. Darlene glanced to Davina, wondering if her friend had ever heard of it?! (odds were quite good, cause Davina was versed upon a wide range of subjects!) "Well now at least you have two new friends in London, that must be a very good start for it's becoming your new home."  she smiled warmly. 

Robert then returned Davina's question upon them both (in Darlene’s instance what a can of worms that might open!) so she thought to duck, and turned to allow Davina first reply...   

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Lowther and the Ladies

"I am sorry for your loss. It must have been hard being so far away." Sincerely said.

"Well I find that Stories are only boring if the teller finds them so and you do not strike me as that sort. Perhaps there will be a time to hear them?"

She smiled up at him her blue eyes twinkling.

"It shall take some time to get settled naturally. Have you a Residence here - there are many new faces since this Season has begun - with everyone either camped out in Inns or opening up long shut houses that need renovations." 

"What means 'mud and cheese with holes in it?' Is it perhaps like sand that slips thru fingers or some Military Term? Or something that Yorkshire Men say?"

She really was curious.

Then he turned all the questions back upon them and Lady Oakham seemed to want her to go first ....

Her own explanation was deliberately simply designed for him to understand as one new to it all.

"I can not speak for Lady Oakham but as to myself ..."

"I am part of the Queen's Household and as a Maid of Honor my Duties are Decorative. Meaning the running of errands, carry messages, and entertaining with conversation, singing and dancing. We are all the frame you see which surrounds Her Majesty at the Center."

"Upon occassion we are called for the King's Side and there we do the same but in the presence of Foreign Ambassadors and the like."

"There is no end actually to the Skills we posses and must have at the ready."  

"The Queen, if you have not been made aware, is enceinte and so many Events have been scaled down to simply things. This evening being one such."

"As you are a face not seen afore you might be called upon to recite. I say this only so that you can be prepared - you have the Book in your company already."

"But there I have made too lengthy of a response! You shall no doubt think me long-winded and Lady Oakham has been neglected."

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Lowther and the Ladies

"Mistress Wellesley, if you are the frame, then I would imagine the picture is in fear of being overlooked." Oh, that does sound very gallant and courtly, thought Lowther, with no small degree of pleasure at what he thought was something a courtier would say. It was wholly truthful too. He found Mistress Wellesley quite captivating.

He smiled at them both and bashfully held up the battered, old book he had been trying to slip into his pocket. "Yes, never fear, I am prepared. Just an old favourite of my mother's. I confess if I am called upon to discuss any deeper meanings in it I am sure to make such a fudge of it I will be dragged before the Archbishop's court!"

The bearing of a man in uniform. That made him smile. He held up his broad hands. "By that you mean I have the bear-like look of a man under authority?" He chuckled. He was perfectly happy to own his somewhat bovine appearance. "Not clerk's hands, these." Back on his estates it was not unknown for him to pitch in with the seasonal and general work about his lands. Hedging, harvesting, even threshing. Some might find it unbecoming for a lord to work alongside his tenants. Well, provided he was not doing it every day, Lowther could not see why it should be so taboo? A fine source of exercise too, hacking down trees and the like. "Never fear though, Lady Oakham, I can still dance well enough to avoid stepping on any woman's delicate toes."

He might look like a bear at a fayre whilst he did so but that was something they would surely find out later and he felt no need to add!

"We will see. I think the uniform would suit me well but I wouldn't want that to stop me being sent off for active duty. Unlike Mistress Wellesley I am not suited to decoration, except perhaps as a gargoyle?" He joked.

He blushed a little as clear some element of his natural talk marked him out even more as an outsider. "Forgive me. These are just my boorish ways from the North. All flesh and no muscle is another way you might say, you know, all bark and no bite? A person who looks the part but can't perform it. As for the other," he chuckled, "it was just an easy way to sum up my time soldiering for the Dutch. Day after day of slogging through mud and eating little but that cheese they make there that's all full of holes. I will write you a Yorkshire lexicon and circulate it at Court so people can understand the bizarre sayings of Viscount Lowther?"

He smiled at Mistress Wellesley, "please do not apologies, I found it most interesting and would like to hear more if you ever have the time. After all, as you ladies have gallantly said, I am now your problem and I am sure you must have adopted some legal responsibility for me now in case I misbehave or go missing or whatnot! I should imagine your husband must be most honored by your position?"

"And you, Lady Oakham, do not think I have forgotten you. Are you a part of the Queen's most decorative frame?"

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Lowther and the Ladies

Yes Lowther did very well with his courtly compliment to Davina, alas however, he'd overlooked Darlene in the process.  The Vicountess could barely repress her pout at that moment.  Why, he might even have been implying that she was the picture that he now overlooked! 

It was hardly fair.  And he the smiling fellow, carried on gayly, and seemly entirely unaware, perhaps did not even care.

"Is the archbishop attending?" slightly sulking Darlene directed the question to the beautiful distracting frame that was Davina, "I wonder if he remembers me, he is my Cousins neighbour - and with gardens that are spectacular too." 

Had she truly lost the competition so soon, were his eyes set firmly upon Davina truly? It was enough to make Darlene reconsider the other as companion, Heather had not outsprinted her so swiftly. Darlene sighed, and looked back to the moustachioed men. Their youthful foppishness held little appeal, and then Lowther was ragging on about his strong muscles and firm hands.  

She tried to look away again, but failed. His were the brawny hands of a man who had worked... flicking a brief look at Davina, Darlene posed, "such hands as those might ladder your stockings, or at the least feel rough upon fine skin." words punctuated with a batting of lashes. No she'd not give up on the game quite yet!   Nor did it seem that the gent minded being fussed about by the two of them - hale and hearty he chuckled with his jokes, explained what those odd sayings meant, and offered to write a book for the ladies.

Davina seemed in her element too, though Darlene viewed her accounting as dull in the context (a petulant view shadowed by the fact that she thought Davina had outdone her). But at least Darlene monologue got Darlene off the hook from giving her own answer.  Or at least that was what she thought, until Lord Lowther replaced the enquiry upon her.

Fiddlesticks.   

She made a pretty smile. "Not at all Lord Lowther, you see I..." ought she try dodge the bullet, or simply embrace it? "...my life has been a little too colourful I suppose, and my ambitions have not laid in that direction. I would no better fit ‘neath Her Majesty’s wing, than would a swan fit under a hen.  Alas, no end of trouble chops about the waters in my wake, but fortunately I love he excitement of it. What is life if not a little chaos, mmm?" she smiled fully once more.  Perhaps he fancied Davina more than her, never to mind, for no doubt she'd find some thrill in the evening one way or another. 

 

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Lowther And The Ladies

Davina, eyes and ears trained to observe, took immediate note of the change in the other Lady. Her gaze took in the countance now changed from minutes before and her tone of voice as well as her manner.

Had she, inadvertently, made some reference that had caused upset? Had she perhaps taken too long to offer an explanation? Or could it be that Lady Oakham had indeed taken a fancy to this new arrived Gentleman?

If that was the case then she would set things to rights.

She would let Lord Lowther lead the conversation and only imput when it was required. She had no wish to cause hurt to Lady Oakham for they had, tentatively, a friendship which Davina had enjoyed.

She would even go so far as excuse herself on some 'sudden cause' if that were needed!

Resolved she remained quiet looking to Lord Lowther to further the conversation. 

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Lowther and the Ladies

With the typical blind simplicity of a man, Lowther was fully unaware that there may have been a shift in attitude. If he had been aware of it he would have been aghast. Fortunately, he was perfectly happy to plough on and gave Lady Oakham's comments a laugh which drew the attention of several persons nearby, coming as it did out of the blue.

"Why, Lady Oakham, you are sure you have no northern blood in you? You have as good an aptitude for brilliant symbolism - a swan under a hen, indeed! An admirable attitude, though, admirable indeed! For what it is worth, I have always found that, whether you like it or not, Life has a fine way of throwing chaos in one's way so it does well to embrace it and chart as best a course you can under your own sail. The best laid plans go awry, as they say. I would not apologise for colour, as you call it. I would see it as adventure. Adventure is a preserve that ought not to be reserved solely for men."

He wanted to ask, and made a mental note to perhaps try some time, to see quite what colourful escapades the lovely Lady Oakham was obliquely referring to. The idea of having an adventure of his own with her was placing some decidedly unchristian images in his mind. Her wit and flirtation was alluringly goading, as if seeking to challenge a gentleman not to become flustered, or enamored, or otherwise. Where all the women at Court like these? If so, he feared that he would have need of armour and allies if he was to take the field against any of them!

"Well now, ladies, as you have wittingly or otherwise become my pilot in these waters, can you tell point out to me anyone here that is particularly notable? Besides yourselves, of course, who I must be the envy of the room speaking with. And, please, do not spare any gossip, however irreverent or partially unfounded it may be!"

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Lady Mountjoy arrives 

The door from Her Majesties more private apartments opened again, and here exited the Marchioness Lady Mountjoy.

Dressed in a gown the shade of damson plum, with accents of pale blue lace, her eyes scanned swiftly about the room - but did not linger upon anyone who was actually present.  While Ursula's smile remained fixed in place, her shoulders rose and fell with (disappointed?) breath. 

The one she looked for was not here, and perhaps did not even plan to attend.  Which gave her more time, she supposed, to locate the missing gift.  Charles, what might become of us?  She was quite certain the he was waiting to see her wearing that love token, to indicate that she was amenable to a reunion.  She would have been wearing the rhinestones within hours of their row, if she'd been able to.   

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Lowther and the Ladies

 

“Well my home estate was Chesterford, which is North-ish of London, and is Oakham also. Not that Northerners have rights on synonyms. Lord Lowther you may be surprised at how courtiers embrace such things – we are of course masters of entendre double and even triple at times.”

While Lowther did not notice the difference, the temporarily sulking Darlene lifted her chin as she appreciated that her pout had done the trick.   In fact Davina had completely hushed in a response, which was a deference given of course.  After all Darlene out ranked her, though should have first dibs on men over her. How good of Davina to fall into line, many a maid wouldn’t have!  

Pacified, Darlene rediscovered her generosity towards Davina, with a desire to draw her back into this conversational manage et trois. “But I think Lord Lowther may be correct, don’t you agree Mistress Davina - that like the oriental rule of the man saved becoming the saviours responsibility.” she smiled the question to Davina cheerily.

Turning back to the gent she added, “Which places you completely at our mercy.”

His was a theoretic and entirely pretence position of power to delight the ladies…

So that his next question was truly exposing himself to their mercy (or lack of it!). Darlene’s eyes flared, spying an opportunity for theatre, her eyebrow raising towards her lady friend. Did the same idea occur to Davina?   

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It was George Churchill that ventured into the room.  He expected that the Queen's ladies would be around the Queen, so what was not to like.  The handsome fellow was dressed in a velvet forest green jacket.

Seeing Davina and Darlene together hastened his breath.  Both intrigued him, but he realized he had promised Darlene to escort her to the Green Ribbon Club.  Maybe she had forgotten, which would be a good thing he supposed.  He was not sure how smart it would be for him to enter the denizens of the Whigs. 

In the meantime, George moved to get a glass of wine and position himself to get a good view of the surroundings.  It made him wonder as to the identity of the man with the two ladies.  Lucky chap.

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