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Aria

Finishing Touches | Monday, late afternoon

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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.

 

On one of the walls, between the mirrors, hangs an oil painting of a pine tree grove, the signature on the painting naming the author as the Earl of Chilchester, George Hardwick III

 

 

There was nobody in the Presence Room, when Lucy entered, followed by servants carrying an embroidery stand, a large piece of embroidered linen, and a big decorative box. She instructed the servants where to place everything and then sent them away.

 

This was the perfect time to finalize plans for the tapestry that she, Lady Susan, and Mistress Davina were making for the Queen’s confinement … a scene that would hopefully soothe her whenever she looked at it. What was more tranquil than a beautiful garden full of flowers? She doubted that anyone would interrupt them today.

 

She’d had a lot of time to work on the central panel during recess, as she was supposed to be resting due to her pregnancy. Embroidery was one of the few quiet activities Lucy enjoyed and she had not protested being treated delicately because of her condition. Now at five months pregnant, she was back at court to attend the Queen and it was time to put the pieces of the tapestry together and finish the gift.

 

One of the servants had fastened her piece to the stand, and she sat down and studied it as she waited for Davina and Susan to arrive.

 

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The was no need to rush. She had everything for her part all but completed save for a few flowers at the end that would tie her work into anothers.

She was dressed comfortably without 'Court Fuss' and carried her rolled up work under one arm and a small basket which contained her needle case, threads and small scissors. She doubted any would be about save for servants which suited her mood.

Entering she saw that the Duchess was already there seated before her frame.

"Good Afternoon Your Grace."

She addressed and curtsied then went to occupy one of the more comfortable chairs placed nicely to catch the light from the windows.

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Lucy looked up when Davina walked in. “Good afternoon, Mistress Wellsley. May I see your piece while we wait for Lady Susan?” She waved a hand toward the frame, which contained a garden scene.  There was a large white trellis in the center with red, white, pink, and yellow roses climbing over it.  A bench sat beneath it and upon it lay a straw hat with a blue ribbon around it that trailed to the ground.  She had thought the hat was a nice addition. “This is mine. In that box on the table are the colors I used so that we can weave all three parts together.”

 

Despite the fact that they both served the Queen, they’d had no time alone together since the new season began. “How have you been.? Did you enjoy recess?”

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"Of course Your Grace."

She had unrolled her work as she was settling and now walked across to where the Duchess sat.

"How pretty!" She quietly exclaimed over the others' design. "I stayed with my orginal thoughts and so have done double Peonies in shades of orange with sky blue forget-me-knots. I just have to finish those there on the bottom right side. That will take no time at all."

"I hope Lady Susan stayed with her first ideas as well for then all our colors shall complement nicely."

She would wait a bit longer for her work to be looked over - she was confident in her Skills - then take up her chair and set to work. The light was good enough over her shoulders despite the cloudiness of the afternoon.

"Recess was as all the others. And I am well."

"And you?"

Edited by Davina Wellsley

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Davina’s stitches were even and perfect, much better than Lucy’s own. She hid her jealously well and tried to appreciate the full effect of the piece and not just the gorgeous needlework. “It’s lovely. I think it would look best on the right side of the tapestry. That part will be closest to the Queen when it is hung upon the wall."

 

Mistress Wellsley was rather secretive about her recess. Perhaps it had not gone well, or had been unbearably boring. The young Duchess knew that her brother was marring one of Norfolk’s daughters. Maybe the two of them didn’t get along.

 

“I am well too.” Lucy patted her round belly. “During recess, I didn’t do much but rest and embroider. That’s why I added a few extras to my piece. I had nothing but time.” There was no bitterness in her voice. She was willing to do whatever she had to do in order to ensure that her baby was born healthy. If she lost it, both her husband and her brother would be disappointed in her. This child had his or her own part to play in the building of her family’s dynasty.

 

Susan entered, a bit out of breath. Servants followed behind her with her embroidery and her stand. “I hope I’m not too late,” she said. “I was in the library and I lost track of the time.”  She had not done much research but she did discover one tidbit of information that might help in the mystery she and Lord Langdon were attempting to solve. 

 

“That’s easy to do in libraries,” Lucy replied. “Show Mistress Wellsley and me your part of the tapestry.”

 

"Yes, Your Grace."Taking it from her maidservant, Susan held it up so that both ladies could see. It was just as she had promised, hyacinths and zinnias in multiple hues.

 

Lucy noted that her stitches were also superior to her own. “Let’s put them together and figure out what we need to do to fasten them together.”

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Davina moved to look as well.

"Well I must say that we three together have made a very fine piece."

Credit was due to them all so best say that aloud.

"Now the hard part is assembly. Let us lay each piece down and then see how it looks. We may have to do this several times until we like how it comes together."

"Then we can finish up what we each have left. After that we attach them together."

"I have brought some linen for backing ..." She gestured to the folded cream fabric resting on the chair arm. "It is simply a matter of sewing it all the way round keeping the stitches small."

"What do you think?"

She asked the other two. 

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Davina acted as if she was in charge, but Lucy didn’t really mind. Impending motherhood had  toned down her jealous streak. The other lady's suggestions were similar to those she would have made, and she was the oldest of the three of them and the most experienced at embroidery. Maybe that was why her stitches were finer than hers or Susan’s.

 

“An excellent idea,” Susan agreed, moving to a large table and placing her piece upon it.

 

Lucy did the same after unfastening it from its frame. “Mine will go in the center, as we agreed upon last season. But we need to figure out which one looks best on either side of it. Thank you for bringing the backing, Mistress Wellsley. After we sew it together, we may have to add a few flowers to the areas where each part is joined so that it won’t look pieced together.”

 

When all of the pieces were lying on the table, the ladies studied them. “How do you think they should be arranged, Mistress Wellsley? If your fashion sense is any indication, you are well-versed in how well things look together.”

 

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Her words could well hold a double meaning - complement or sarcasm so she answered 

"I think, Your Grace, that as this was your idea it should be up to you. Lady Susan will no doubt agree ..." She looked to that lady and smiled then continued. "Arrange the pieces as pleases you. And if after some contempation you think otherwise then tis easily switched."

"And you are right in that some more flowers need to be added."

"Shall we stay with the themed ones or shall we add some fresh colors for diversity?"

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Lucy wasn’t surprised that Davina deferred to her. She was the highest ranking lady in the room, after all. Was that the real reason she had asked, to receive that very reaction? Perhaps, but she really did value her fellow ladies’ opinions. Susan nodded in agreement with Davina. “As you wish,," Lucy conceded,  "But if either of you think it would look better arranged differently, please speak up. This tapestry has to be perfect so that it will soothe Her Majesty during her confinement.”

 

She nodded at Mistress Wellsley’s suggestion. “When we have them arranged, we can decide whether to add new flowers and colors or stick with the ones we have. If we add new ones, they have to be scattered across the entire tapestry.” Her biggest fear was that the finished product would look like three separate parts instead of a whole.

 

Studying the pieces closely, she reached out and placed Davina’s to the right of hers and Susan’s to the left. Her gaze traveled from Susan to Davina. “What do you think, ladies?”

 

Susan glanced over at Davina. It looked fine to her, but she didn’t really have an eye for art. It’s just as well that Lord Chichester found someone else, she thought morosely. I would have disappointed him. “It looks fine to me,” she remarked, “though maybe we should try it the other way as well.”

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Davina took a few steps back to study the three pieces.

"This angle does not really help. Since it shall be hung lying flat changes the perspective."

"What it we do this ...."

The idea popped into her head and she went to where she had been sitting. Rummaging in her basket she finally found some heavy purple thread that was more useful for heavier embroidery. Returning she quickly threaded a wide-eyed needle and did a running basting stitch that joined the three panels. She left the ends long.

"Susan - take this side and I'll take this one and we'll hang it up there."

She nodded towards the two brass drapery holders to their right.

"Since those panels are closed we can hang this in between  .... it should be enough to allow us to have a better idea. If we want to switch, well, the basting stitches are quick to be removed and then redone."

"Shall we try it Your Grace?"

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Davina was right. Even if the tapestry looked good lying on a table, it might look horrible when hung on a wall. Since it was now in three separate pieces, how could they view it while hanging? Mistress Wellsley had an answer to that too. Lucy watched as she went over to her basket and took out some heavy purple thread and then returned to baste the panels together. The young Duchess held the sides to the center as Davina stitched, suddenly feeling a bit useless. Why didn’t I think of that? The baby kicked, as he did quite often lately. It seemed like he was reassuring her somehow.

 

Mistress Wellsley knew just where to hang it as well. “Of course,” Lucy agreed to Davina’s inquiry. Susan took the side she indicated and between the two of them, they easily hung it between the brass holders.

 

Lucy grinned and stepped forward to get a better look. “Yes, that is much better. Thank you., Mistress Wellsley. You are so creative. Now we can also figure out what we need to do to to finish it. I can see already where new flowers need to be added. Come stand beside me, ladies, and let’s hear your ideas. Do you think this arrangement is best or should we try it the other way too?”

 

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As the Duchess stepped closer to look Davina whispered to Susan ...

"We must not keep her standing over long so let us two see her resumed in her place after some small time and we can then decide."

She gave the other a 'look' then a glance at the Duchesses' belly.

"We do not want to overtire her and risk the child."

She was sure Susan would be in agreement.

"You say your thoughts first."

Davina had after all been quite vocal already.

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Susan knew very little about pregnancy, but she was aware that it was best not to exert yourself too much while carrying a child. Some of her married friends had suffered miscarriages and stillbirths. Nobody understood why they happened, but it was best to coddle a pregnant woman until she gave birth. Her Grace was acting as if she was not with child at all and Susan agreed with Davina that she should soon sit down.

 

“This arrangement looks nice to me,” she said. She walked close to the tapestry and began to point at some of the flowers close to the area where the panels were joined. “We can add more of these flowers to the center panel to make it look like one piece and we can do the same on the other side. And perhaps we could add a few simple birds to the sky on each piece.”

 

Susan looked over to Davina, expecting that she would add her own suggestions.

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No words were exchanged but Davina thinks Susan understood and took the meaning. Together they would find the right time to see the Duchess back into her chair.

She did the same as Susan taking her time to study the three pieces her heard to one side.

"I agree it looks nice this way. If each of us adds one flower from our own piece to where it joins then that will have an overall look as if twas intended from the start."

"Birds .... Hmmm. And you Your Grace? You shall have the final say - naturally."

"But I think you needs must sit for this contemplation - do you not agree Lady Susan - You are too long on your feet."

"Come allow us to see you back Madam but with gentle steps. The babe must not be startled."

She smiled and went to the Duchesses' side looking to Susan to take up the other. It was no great distance but cautions were necessary.

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Lucy agreed with the other ladies’ assessments. When Davina offered to assist her to a chair, she almost refused, but her legs were beginning to ache and she felt a bit tired. It still seemed strange to not be a vigorous as she once was. She needed to heed their advice. The child she carried was too important to take any chances.

 

And so she allowed Davina and Susan to assist her while she walked to the nearest chair. She sank into it gratefully. Lucy was no longer close to the tapestry, but the distance between the Queen’s bed and the wall could be similar when she went into confinement. Studying it carefully, she didn’t speak for a few seconds.

 

“I like the ideas both of you came up with. The additional flowers will tie it all together as will some birds made of a few stitches to represent wings. They will be flying high in the sky so no detail will be needed. Maybe we can also add some new flowers across all three panels. I brought some thread in colors we haven’t used yet in case we wish to embellish it further."  She glanced from one lady to another.  "Do either of you have plans for the rest of the day?  If we all work together, we may be able to finish it in a few hours time."

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She released an inward held breath as the Duchess was agreeable to the maneuvers and once more sat.

Not that anything was like to happen but IF if did then she, along with Lady Susan, would be held accountable for having failed iin their Duty to safeguard mother and child. And Davina had no intention of allowing that to happen.

"What do you think Lady Susan? Shall we leave it then?"

And as to the last she gave a small shake of her dark head answering that she was not so disposed and would be happy to remain. 

It would be easy for her to do her needle work and allow her thoughts to wander and keep conversation if required - she was after all a practiced Courtier. And the absence of others' was also a welcom'd thing. She knew that there was no real escape from her thoughts especially the one that was uppermost. She had had no other contact with anyone that might be involved in the 'Plot' and nothing had some after the small bottle which was still bundled up in her handkerchief hidden at the bottom of a clothes chest. She knew she needed to make her decision and soon before Recess came again. Knew too the importance in choosing the right person to tell her tale to and to that end her mind was near deciding.

Giving a mental shake she looked back at the displayed work pleased that it had all come together so easily and without much friction.

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“Yes,” Susan replied to Davina. “All of our ideas together should finish it nicely. And I have nothing else to do for the rest of the day.” She had planned to go back to the library to continue her research but that could wait. She felt as if she was on the brink of an important discovery about the descendants of the Lion and the Swan, but something was eluding her. Perhaps it would come to her as she worked on the tapestry. Embroidery was a calming and mundane activity that sometimes helped her solve dilemmas.

 

“Good!” Lucy clapped her hands. “Let’s retrieve the tapestry and put it back on the table. We can work on it there.” She meant for Davina and Susan to take it down from and move it to the table. Her chair was comfortable and she didn’t really want to leave it.

 

After that was done, Susan brought the Duchess her basket and the three ladies decided on colors for the new flowers. They made small talk as they sewed and after a few hours, the tapestry was complete. “It’s perfect!” Lucy exclaimed. “Now we need to decide when to present it to the Queen. Luckily, we finished it before she went into confinement.”

 

“Perhaps just one of us should give it to her so we don’t overwhelm her,” Susan suggested.

 

“That’s a good idea.” Lucy turned to Davina. “Would you like to do the honors, Mistress Wellsley?”

 

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They soon settled and after some time had passed they paused to again inspect their combined works.

Lady Susan then put forth the idea of just one amongst them to present it to the Queen. Namely her.

"But I thought we all would - with Her Grace leading." She was a bit taken back. "Honestly I do not feel comfortable in that and how can 'we' overwhelm when Her Majesry knows us all well."

"But if that is what you both think, well, then I shall."

"And there is even a chance I shall be refused. Lady Mountjoy Rules you know and I might well be asked to just turn it over to a Bedchamber Lady and it gets forgot or something."

"All our hard work  .... imagine not a breath of thanks. And tis even possible that one of those Ladies might well neglect to even speak of it. You are both all to familiar with such occurrences happening before."

Petty disbutes, arguments, and jealousies were common things amongst all those women that served the Queen and it was just something that was taken for granted.

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Susan felt embarrassed about making that suggestion. She had been contemplating the mystery she and Lord Langdon were trying to solve and her mind was still on that. It had made sense to her that several ladies visiting the Queen at once might be overwhelming in her delicate state, but she knew absolutely nothing about pregnancy. What she did know was that she had not been called into her mistress’ presence in quite some time. Even during church, she had sat with her family and not the Queen.

 

“Those are good points, Mistress Wellsley,” Lucy said. “I have the utmost respect for Lady Mountjoy, but she is very protective of Her Majesty. If she does take it from you, it’s possible that one of the other ladies will take credit for it.” Everyone who served the Queen wanted to please her and rise in her favor; not all of them were honest.

 

“We will all go then. My presence will guarantee that we are allowed to see her.” Her expression turned smug. “I outrank Lady Mountjoy. Now that that is settled, when do the two of you wish to present it to her? We should decide on a day and a time.”

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She said nothing in regards to the Duchesses comment about 'outranking' instead offering up another smile and a nod of her dark head in agreement.

"Well it can not be anytime that either Lady Susan or I are on a Duty .... well I suppose we two might be excused expecially if Your Grace requests it. I do not see any denying it."

"I do not know what, if anything, is scheduled unless you Lady Susan have heard something?"

She looked to the other to jump into the conversation.

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“I haven’t heard of anything,” Susan replied. She doubted that the Queen would hold more soirees this season, considering that her bible reading had turned into a farce, with courtiers one-upping each other and insulting people they didn’t like by picking out specific passages in the bible. Susan had been overjoyed when it was over and she suspected that her mistress had shared her sentiments.

 

“I’m sure there will be some events during the week,” Lucy remarked. “We should give it to her in the morning. It’s usually quiet and there’s never anything going on so early.”

 

“Maybe Thursday?” Susan suggested. “We’ll have a few days to look over the tapestry and make certain there isn’t anything we missed.” Now she was the one who looked over to Davina.

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"I am afraid Thursday is already taken."

She offered no explanation.

"Perhaps Wednesday might be better? And as you say Your Grace the morning is the best time."

She was winding some thread around her fingers as she talked making sure that she left nothing behind once they were finished.

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Lucy wondered what Mistress Wellsley had planned for Thursday. Was she meeting a gentleman who was interested in courting her? She must be aiming high to have remained unmarried for so long. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Lucy would have still been single herself if Louis hadn’t arranged for her to marry a Duke.

 

Her gaze turned to Susan. “Are you otherwise engaged on Wednesday morning, Lady Susan?”

 

“No, Your Grace. Just not too early, please.” Susan did most of her research in the early mornings before her duties to the Queen began. The library wasn’t so busy then and Mr Potts knew when to unlock the door to the archives. It was not a secret room, but most courtiers didn’t know of its existence and the librarian preferred to keep it that way, which was another reason she went when there was no one around to see her.

 

“Very well, Wednesday it will be, maybe around nine or ten?” Lucy looked from one lady to the other.

 

“That is a good time for me, Your Grace.” Susan replied.

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"And I as well."

Good. I am glad that this has come together so well. Shall you keep this then Your Grace - it will need to be wrapped up of course - until Wednesday?"

She looked back at the Duchess. Since this was a gift it would need a nice piece of velvet or brocade to be wrapped in and the Duchess far more likely to have such rich fabrics easier at hand than she or Lady Susan.

But that was just her guess.

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The time and date was set. “I will keep it in my room and whenever either of you want to look at it, just tell me and I’ll let you in.” Lucy usually resided with her husband, but she had a room just like the rest of the Queen’s ladies should she be required to spend the night. Some of the maids of honor stayed in theirs all the time. There were many advantages to living in the palace when one was not yet wed.

 

The three ladies saw each other nearly every day, so it was easy to find her if they wished to view the finished tapestry or even add extra touches to it. Lucy would not consider it complete until it was placed in the hands of the Queen.

 

The young Duchess stood up. “We have accomplished much this afternoon.” Her servants had already packed the items she had brought with her. “Thank you, Lady Susan, Mistress Wellsley. We now have a gift that is fit for a Queen.” With that comment, she was ready to take her leave.

 

(OOC:  Ready to wrap this one up?)

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And so it was all decided.

She did not think she had any need to further see this tapestry so did not bother offering any reply back. But there was no telling what the Duchess might have in her mind so Davina could not rule out further embellishments.

She offered a curtsey to the departing Duchess adding a "Go safely Your Grace." And a small curtsey to Lady Susan as well.

She would linger behind setting her things to order but somehow she found herself sitting back down her gaze off into the distance a small furrow between her brows as her thoughts went elsewhere   .....

(fin)

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