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Scents and Sensibility | Friday September 16th, mid afternoon

Sophia de la Cerda

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The elegant Windsor Town had grown through the ages as a direct consequence of the castle, taking its name from what came to be known as Old Windsor which was further down in the countryside, completely cut off from its colony. The new Windsor Town was created exclusively in response to the castle. All its citizens worked in the castle, made goods for the castle or provided housing for its guests and family of its inhabitants.

The Town of Windsor consists of six principal streets, Park Street, High Street, Thames Street, Peascod Street, Church Street, and Castle Street. The less considerable streets are, Butcher Row, Fish Street, Sheet Street, George Street, Beer Lane and Datchet Lane.

Nell Gwynn owned a merry house just off High Street that ended up at Kings Gate. She set a trend for the gentle but common visitors of the castle. The town also provided some rare pleasures that could not be found inside the large walls - a rich town and it showed in the colourful fronts of the many shops that begged the visitors to stop.



Sophia sat on a bench in the center of town, waiting for Darlene to arrive. She was dressed a pretty azure blue silk gown embroidered all over with mauve and white flowers. It was unadorned other than for the white lace and mauve ribbon that framed the bodice, accented the four puffs of her long sleeves, and formed the hem of her voluminous skirt. Her very loose mauve stomacher had been beaded with pearls in a floral design. Three strings of pearls encircled her neck and she wore pearl earrings as well. Her hair was arranged in its usual style, fastened with pearl combs that were almost the same color as her hair. Long white-blonde curls had been left loose to tumble down her back.


As she waited, she thought about the note Darlene had sent her. Why would a Life Guard be stalking her? Had she seen him doing something wrong? Was he sweet on her but she didn’t return his affection? The only one she knew personally was Lord Dundarg and he would never do anything illegal or force his attentions on a woman.  Douglas … how she still adored him! If her life had taken a different path, she might have been his wife and this child she was carrying would be his. And then she wouldn’t face the dilemma she was facing now. No, I will not think of that today.


She couldn’t read any of the shop names from this distance but she hoped that a perfumery was among them. They would certainly have a wonderful time looking for one and perusing the wares in other shops along the way. Standing up, she stretched, lifting her arms to the sky. She needed to walk soon. The baby was kicking her relentlessly.


Edited by Sophia de la Cerda
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  • 2 weeks later...

Lady Oakham was wearing a day dress of cream, with honeysuckle vines and flowers embroidered about the hem. A broad pale green ribbon was tied around her petite midriff, fastened in a volumous bow at the back. And a smaller ribbon in the same hue was fastened in a bow around her wrist (a styling that Darlene had ever been fond of.)  

She strolled into the tow square beneath a pretty green lace parasol, her maid carried the parasol actually, and worked tirelessly to ensure that her ladyships porcelain pale skin was kept in it's shade. 

“There you are Lady Toledo, good heavens you must get into the shade.  Quick quick, there is a door. Haberdashery? That’s a perfect idea. I am sure we need some more haberdashery. Now what a funny word that is now I stop to think about it. But I shall much rather haberdashery than haberslowery. So that is very sensible of them. Perhaps it is a marketing scheme? My brother tells me that sales people are quite clever that way.”

Darlene chattered distraction as she ushered her pregnant friend into the dim and cool of indoors.  Meanwhile, just one door down, was the perfumery that Sophia so wanted to visit....

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Sophia smiled as Darlene approached. A greeting formed on her lips but before she could speak, her friend immediately insisted that she get out of the sun. Her maidservant carried a broad-brimmed straw hat decorated with ribbons, fabric flowers, and feathers, but the heat was not bothering her enough to wear it. She loved to feel the warmth of the sun on her head and shoulders and wished to enjoy it while she could. Soon it would be cold and rainy again and she would be in confinement, or as much of it as she was unable to escape.


“You are so sweet to be concerned about me, Lady Oakham. I am fine, though. The sun is not nearly as hot here as it was in Venice.” The closest shop had an unfamiliar name and she laughed as Darlene speculated as to its meaning. She was always so much fun to be around. “Ha-ber-dash-er-y. I can barely pronounce it.   Since we don't know what it is, it will be like stepping into an adventure."


Her friend led her inside and Sophia blinked a few times to adjust them to the dimness of the interior. “I don’t think you have ever mentioned your brother before. Is he here at court?”

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  • 2 weeks later...

Upon a fragrant breeze the ladies swept into the Haberdashery - leaving Maisie to deal with the parasol (the darkie maid giving a small smile to Sophia's maid). 

"Oh I forgot that you are used to exotic temperatures." Darlene cooed, waiting but a moment for eyes to adjust to the indoors before she moved into the room further to look around.  "I am quite exotic too did you know, my Late Husband travelled far and wide and I insisted upon his taking me too." 

"Oh, look." she touched a pretty roll of ribbon, turning back to smile at Sophia, "This one would suit you well."

"I've not mentioned by brother before? How remiss. No, he's not at court now, in fact the last he was, was in my debut season." she felt a warmth at that memory, "I hated being monitored by him of course, but now I reflect upon it, it was entirely darling of him to do so. He is the loveliest man I know."

"Have you brothers too?" 

The ladies entirely ignored any shopkeeper, as they were so occupied with exploring and each other. 


OOC: I propose that we create various mundane items present, making whatever purchased they might like, while leaving liberty for a mod to step in with input if they so wish.


Edited by Darlene Hamilton
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The shop was full of ribbons, button, laces, braid, and many other delightful notions. Sophia’s blue eyes widened. “You were right as usual. We definitely need more haberdashery.”


She followed Darlene over to a display of ribbon. “Oh, that color is lovely. I shall have to buy enough to liberally trim one of the gowns I’ll have made after the baby is born.”


Waddling over to a display of lace, she pulled out a piece that that featured a lovely floral design. “I should like to meet your brother if he returns to court.” If he was anything like her friend, she would probably find him fascinating. “I have no relatives at all. The only other soul on this earth who shares my blood is this baby growing inside me. It must be nice to have siblings. I was lonely growing up.”


Sophia did not want to dwell on sad things today. “Your husband let you travel with him? You must have amazing powers of persuasion!  Most Englishman prefer their wives to stay at home. The desire to travel again was one reason I married a Spaniard. Where did you go? What place did you enjoy the most?”

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"Why wait?  I have always thought that now is my favourite time for anything." Darlene crooned, then called to the shop keep, "We shall need five yards of this ribbon, and keep close, for the lady shall need further trimmings."

"Is that Lisbon lace?" she looked at what had next caught Sophia's eyes. "Did you know I once had a Portuguese suitor, he talked of such places as Lisbon. Had I married him I might not be in Windsor here today." 

Blinking, she then asked. 

"Is Portugal the place that Spain hates? Best you not mention my connections there to Toledo then, or he might think me poor company for you."

"Oh yes Thomas did not want me to travel.  Only, he realised quite quickly, it was safer that way." She waved her hand vaguely, not truly wanting to get into more detail of the trouble she'd caused her first husband.  "But I enjoyed the carribean the most, Jamaica really. Why that is where I found little Maisie." her darkie maid, "My husband was stationed there, our navy is terribly active on those seas. Though to be honest, I became bored there also. I was not allowed to go with him upon their patrols and manoevers, though did find society life somewhat diverting." 

Darlene had enjoyed a torrid affair with Captain Morgan, the Governor, until Thomas had (come home) found out.    


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A heavyset matron appeared at Darlene's summons.  "Yes milady.  Five yards."  She moved to get shears.  From out of the back room came a silver tray with all manner of feathers long and short.

"Might you ladies be interested in feather adornments to your hair or attire?  We have new shipments in for the season.  See the fine peacock plumage and the goose down?"  The tray was placed on a nearby counter for inspection.


~OOC  Feel free to describe whatever type and color feather that might strike your fancy.  You have complete artistic control.

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“I have plenty of maternity gowns and I will only be able to wear them for two more months. I have been thinking of going to Madam Garland’s to choose fabric for my winter wardrobe. Their selection looks very luxurious from the window. You should come with me and pick out some for yourself. We can take the trims we buy today and pair them with the perfect fabric.”


Darlene summoned a shopkeeper to help them with their purchases. Sophia almost asked for ten yards, but decided that trimming a gown with two colors might be a better option. “I am glad that you did not marry him then. Court would not be the same without you. Spain and Portugal are enemies. If my lord husband knew that you refused a Portuguese suitor, he would probably encourage me to spend time with you.”


Sophia wondered how Darlene had convinced her husband that taking her along on his travels was safer than leaving her at home. Had she made so much mischief that he was afraid of what she might do in his absence? That sounded like something she would do.


“Ooooh,” Sophia breathed, rolling the lace back on its bolt and joining Darlene at the ribbon display. “Jamaica is much more exotic than Venice. I have heard that there are lots of pirates there, which would definitely keep the navy busy.”


She picked up a pretty peacock feather from the shopkeeper’s tray and held it up against her friend’s hair. “These blues and greens contrast beautifully with the color of your hair. You should buy some and have a gown made to match.”


Sophia waved the feather playfully. “Did you ever see a pirate while you were in Jamaica?”


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"Then you must tell him about it after all, and with fanfare." Darlene was happy that she would impress someone at least this season.  Her mood upon her success at court was a very fluid thing.

"Who is a Madam Garland? I've not heard of that dressmaker before, I've always gone to Norrington’s."  When Darlene had debut'd in '75 her brother had made an account there, and had indulged Darlene's continued use of it. 

As they pored over the lace display, Darlene told Sophia of Jamaica. 

"You are right the seas are busy, did you know that Pirates are sort of like the oceans highway men? Oh and also I learnt that privateers, which seem like pirates to, are entirely legal. In fact they are sort of patriotic men, for their loot is for England.  Oh but really that is all too confusing for me to properly understand."

"Though." She was not going to tell Sophia about it, but since her friend seemed so impressed, "I met and came to know Captain Morgan - personally."   Said with a certain tone and flare of eyes to indicate there was much more to that left unsaid. "Alas, he is retired from the ocean now, so practically land, well island-bound." 

Darlene enjoyed the way Sophia crooned and adored over the peacock feather, and, well it reminded her of a certain lord. Well, that lords wife really.  "Do you really think so? But I think I shall object to peacocks, those are far too, common, and make a terrible noise."  A lady needed to differentiate herself after all.  "Do they have any pheasant feathers here perhaps?" 

"Oh and Sophia, we should find a nightingale feathers for you."  Darlene had no idea what that renown songbird even looked like. 


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“My lord husband only asks about my friends when he sees us together. Find me at the next court event. We usually part at the door, but if he is still with me, I will introduce you to him. Perhaps you can even tell him yourself that you spurned a Portuguese suitor. I think he will be very impressed.”


Sophia unrolled a piece of lace trim. This one was covered with tiny iridescent beads that sparkled in the light. “Madam Garland’s is a fabric store here in Windsor. Maybe Madame Garland is a dressmaker or it could just be the name of the shop. I have only looked in the window but I plan to go there soon. If they make gowns, I may order a couple if they have the latest plates.”


Darlene told her about Jamaica and its pirates and privateers. She didn’t completely understand the role of privateers either, but she assumed they hunted the pirates and the booty they seized increased the size of England’s coffers. Legitimate pirates were probably not as scary as the lawless kind.  She had no idea who Captain Morgan was.  From the look Darlene gave her, she assumed that she'd had an affair with him, so she doubted that he was a pirate.  "I have never heard of him," she admitted, "though he has good taste since he spent time with you."


Sophia pouted when Darlene refused to buy peacock feathers. If they would have looked good on her, she would have bought some herself, but bright hues did not suit ladies of her pale coloring. “Nightingale feathers are very small and rather dull in color.  And I think my nightingale Arietta would be offended if I wore feathers from one of her kin.  I brought her with me along with my other pets.”


The pheasant feathers were mostly brown with accents of orange and red. She wasn’t impressed, but maybe Darlene would have a use for them.


“I know what we need … flamingo feathers! There are flamingos in Jamaica, are there not?” She turned to the clerk. “Do you have any?”


Her gaze returned to Darlene. “Are you planning to revive the garden society this season?  It seems like a good time to plan what to plant in the spring."

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As impressing Lord Toledo came became an ordeal needing planning, Darlene shrugged. Maybe she would, maybe she wouldn’t.  “The worst part was, with my Portuguese suitor, that it was his Father who was the more charming.” She added an aside.

“Oh, Madame Garland is Here in Windsor.” Which explained why Darlene had not heard of her. “Shall we go there next then?”  Though she would need to ask the woman if James had an account there with her. 

Talk of pirates and privateers faded into the back ground as the ladies had troubles on the topic of feathers. “What a pity.” Sophia already knew all about nightingales (of course!) and unfortunately knew their feathers were boring. “Then what other musical bird might suit you?”

Darlene meanwhile had begun collecting various pheasant feathers, being sure to select the brightest of any orange ones. 

But then Sophia had a fantastic idea for her choice.    

“Ooh yes, those would be perfect” dropping her handful of feathers back into the display Darlene turned interested eyes with Sophia.  “And I have changed my mind, I now want white Ostrich.”

While the Clerk looked, Sophia mentioned the Garden Society. “I would, but did ou know that Mistress Wellsley is Windsor’s lady of the gardens. Prince Rupert himself appointed her. My society would be a feeble alternative when she is busy soliciting Ladies into her group.”

Darlene turned away for a moment, and then sighed, “It was nice of you to think of it though.”

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Unfortunately, the clerk announced that they had no flamingo feathers but they had two dozen beautiful white Ostrich feathers.  There were a dozen each pheasant, partridge, quail, and woodcock feathers.  There were three hawk feathers, two owl feathers, and one from a falcon.

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Sophia knew all about the charms of older men. Juan was over thirty years her senior. She wished she could tell Darlene about him, but their friendship was still new and she wasn’t sure how she would react to the unusual arrangement between herself, her husband, and her royal lover. And though she trusted Darlene to keep her secret, the clerk might overhear it and both their lives would be in danger, as well as the life of her unborn child.


“We can go to Madame Garland’s next. I have plenty of time and then we will have our trims to match with suitable fabrics. There must be a perfumery around here somewhere too. You mentioned in your note that you were in need of perfume.”


Unfortunately, the haberdashery had no flamingo feathers. Sophia was disappointed but maybe she could find them somewhere else. Pink was one of her favorite colors and she would have loved to wear flamingo feathers in her hair. At least Darlene would be able to buy her ostrich feathers.


“Oh, look how big they are!” she exclaimed, picking one up and peaking playfully from behind it. "These would make pretty fans. If you don’t want them all, I may take a few for myself. The partridge feathers are pretty too.”


Sophia wished she hadn’t said anything about the garden society now. Darlene looked positively downcast. She hoped she would be able to cheer her up. “The season will only last a couple weeks and then those ladies will be looking for a new outlet for their gardening skills. You can step right back into it when the court returns to London. Meanwhile, I would love for you to give me some advice on the garden connected to my birthing chamber. It is small, but I hope to plant some flowers which will bloom later in the autumn when I give birth.


“We should also plan some activities for the ladies.  There will probably be horse races or hunts for the gentlemen. They should not have all the fun.”


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"Perhaps they can dye some of the Ostrich feathers pink for you?" Darlene offered Sophia some of her haul of ostrich feathers, while she begun to wonder what she'd do with them all.   "Apart from a fan, that would really be quite large, what should we use these for?" 

She had completely forgotten that she wanted perfume, but Sophia's reminder jogged her memory that it was indeed a fact.  "Oh yes my favourite bottle is nearly empty now, I dread think of attending church with out more.  Why I sat near a fellow in uniform last week, he must have had only one, and positively reeked.  It was all I could do but to discreetly squirt some on him.  And everyone sitting near to me was supremely grateful that I did!"

"Yes. And thank you for saying so." Darlene replied to her friends cheering thought.  "Do you know, Mistress Wellsley was rather horrible to me about it.  She was bossy really, telling me what I could and could not do.  And then she burst into tears, pretend ones of course, and said I was the one who was mean."

She was still a bit off put after all of that, but Sophia was not scarred. The little blonde seemed keen to arrange something other instead.  "Oh I don’t know... what sort of thing might we ladies actually want?"  Said while she passed the feathers she’d selected to the shop keeper for wrapping, along with instruction to put them on her Brothers account.


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“Can they be dyed pink?” Sophia asked the clerk, “Or maybe a light shade of purple?”


Darlene asked her what ostrich feathers could be used for, and the petite blonde tilted her head to the side. “I think I might use mine as a fluffy collar on a gown or cloak, and maybe another as a plume on a hat. They could also be used to trim a parasol.” Sophia preferred hats to parasols, for the simple reason that she was usually holding a leash in one hand when she went for a stroll and preferred to leave the other hand free.


She wrinkled her nose at the thought of sitting next to a reeking soldier. “Eeeeuww. I would have done the same thing. We should visit the perfumery before we go to the dressmaker. Maybe I can find a bottle for myself as well. I have plenty of my rose and vanilla perfume, but maybe it is time for a change to a less innocent and more sultry scent.”


Davina was Sophia’s friend too, though they had their differences. She could definitely see her being bossy. “She is a bit of a perfectionist, I think, but being demanding is not the way to get results. Other ladies she asks will probably feel like you do and she may find herself alone. I wonder why Prince Rupert picked her. You would be a much better choice.”


She picked through the partridge feathers for the most colorful while the clerk wrapped Darlene's purchase. “Ladies want adventure, of course. I was thinking of a kind of hunt that would appeal to them. Perhaps we could make little tokens and hide them around the palace and the town, putting them some of them in places that are hard to get to, like trees or rooftops. At the end of the season, the lady who found the most tokens will get a prize … maybe a gift box with products donated by the shopkeepers. What do you think? Is it a horrible idea?  Will it take too much work?"


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“Oh that is a good idea.” Darlene was more a parasol type of lady, being partial to the twirling there of. 

They were near ready for leaving the habadashery shop, Darlene having passed Maisie her purchase, chattering all the while with the stories the pair continued to share.  “A sultry scent, oh Sophia, there must be a tale behind this change. Sultry. Why that almost sounds wanton.” Her eyes flared and she grinned, “Like a lady with a line of lovers knocking on her door. Well, would-be-lovers anyhow. For no doubt you shall send at least a half of them away. Oh, but you shall keep their gifts, wont you.”

When both were ready, Darlene was swift to exit one shop and enter the next. 

The Perfumery, at last.

“That is nice of you to say so.” Darlene replied, while hearing Sophias advice made her think that she too might have been a bit demanding.  Thus her lack of results. 

“It was probably because of the trouble she got into.” She replied to the oddness of Rupert designating Davina a Windsor role. My Friend lady Ablemarle, said her husband said that there was some sort of problem. Though he didn’t share any details.  Yes so I suppose working under Cumberland is some sort of a punishment actually.”

Cumberland certainly scared Darlene.

When challenged to come up with games courtiers could play, Sophia did not lack for ideas.  “Trees or Rooftops? But nobody might find them there.” Darlene remarked with surprise, while it then occurred to her why trees and roofs did not seem unattainable to her friend. “Not everyone is as prepared as you, with your monkey upon a lead.”

“But your idea sounds quite lovely, I think it a game I would like to play.”   Darlene's mind was unusually blank on this topic, for usually any number of game ideas would have (by now) popped into her head. But instead she felt somewhat numb. 

Edited by Darlene Hamilton
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Sophia not only bought the feathers, but a long length of beaded lace trim, and several colors of ribbon, handing the wrapped bundles to Anna. She hoped her maidservant would pass them on to her annoying bodyguard. Shopping was unlikely to put her into danger and he could at least be useful if he carried her packages.


Darlene’s interpretation as to the reason Sophia was looking for a sultry scent was completely different from her own. Rose and vanilla suited her when she was an innocent young maiden, but she was married, pregnant, and several years older than she had been when she chose it.  She had been wearing it since she was fourteen, after being gifted with a bottle on her birthday. A more seductive perfume would proclaim that she was not a child anymore and perhaps give her an alluring aura of mystery and excitement. Esteban wouldn’t like it, but Juan would.


She liked the way her friend thought, and she imagined that Darlene was the one with a string of lovers throwing themselves at her feet and presenting her with lovely gifts. Her only answer to Darlene’s question was a secretive smile. She planned to revisit that subject later.


Sophia breathed deeply of the fragrant air as they entered the perfumery.   Darlene offered a possible explanation for Davina’s appointment. “I heard something along those lines too, but like you, I don’t know the details. Being put in charge of the gardens seems like a strange punishment unless she will be doing menial work.” To her, working with Cumberland sounded like an honor.


Her friend liked her idea but would rather play the game than help her organize it. “Using pets would be against the rules. Except for cats, maybe, and only because they can't be controlled. If I had the chance of winning a game, I would climb up at tree or onto a rooftop myself.” Sophia looked down at her baby bump, which was really more like a baby mountain. “Not now, of course, but after my child is born. If you would rather play it, I can find somebody else to help me with the organization. Do you think other ladies will be interested in something like that?”


Douglas would probably help her. He liked coming up with adventures for ladies.


She picked up a pretty perfume bottle, took off the top, and smelled it. Wrinkling her nose, she put it back. “Don’t bother trying this one unless you want to smell like a tree.”


Sophia grinned mischievously and lowered her voice to a whisper. “What if I want a sultry scent because I would like to take a lover … or already have one? Would you hate me for it?”


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  • 2 weeks later...

"Yes, I think it is an honour too." Darlene agreed, retracting her speculation, "It's surely not a punishment."

"The tokens game seems fun... but, well I hate to tell you really, but there was a tokens game that people didn’t even realise was being played at Windsor just, well perhaps two years ago.  It was not till about half way through the season that people compared notes and realised that we'd all be randomly finding tokens.  I am not sure who planned that game. Probably Mr Killigrew."

Darlene had not wanted to tell Sophia, not wanting to disappoint her. 

So perhaps your game needs to be a bit different than that, or people will think it is Him again."   That had been the season that Darlene had arranged gift baskets for all the guests, and everyone had thought Mr Killigrew had done that too. It had been one of the many things about Killigrew that had upset her, until, in the end, she'd snapped.

Darlene avoided the bottle that Sophia said smelt like trees, and picked up the pink bottle several bottles past it.   After inverting the bottle she lifted the stopper and moved it in the air before leaning forwards to sniff there abouts.   

"No, I'd not hate you Sophia." she replied, putting the stopper back in the bottle and setting it on the shelf again.  "I know how exciting that can feel.  An adventure, and feeling wanted." she picked up a blue bottle.  But then put it back, unsmelt. "But, as your friend, I would warn you you could loose everything.  When your husband finds out, and they always do, he will never treat you the same. He wont want to touch, nor love you. When his eyes meet yours, you shall feel like a disappointment.  That is a horrible feeling that never leaves." 

Which was not a fun thing to say, but it was true, Darlene knew it. 

"I still think you would be best to seduce your husband.  In fact, that is also what I am recommending to another good friend of mine.  Though I am not really so sure how to achieve that." She picked up a green bottle, inverted then and wafting the stopper.  "Your Lord Toledo is rather handsome, and the Spanish accent is rather lovely.  Wouldn’t you like it if your own husband was your saucy affair?"  

Edited by Darlene Hamilton
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A long and frustrated sigh escaped Sophia’s lips. So Master Killigrew had organized a scavenger hunt and nobody had been interested. It looked like it was back to square one. She usually had so many marvelous ideas, but the baby seemed to be sapping all of her creative energy. Maybe she should put the notion of organizing activities for ladies aside until the child was born. Or perhaps she should just give it up altogether. She did not have Darlene’s brilliance. “Will you help me come up with something else? Perhaps it can be planned for next season instead of this one so that I can participate too.”


She picked up another bottle, smelled the contents, made a face and put it back. Sophia was pleased that Darlene wouldn’t hate her if she took a lover … or in her case, two. She did not count Juan as Esteban had only married her so that she and her prince could be together. Should she tell Darlene about him? The notion was appealing, and she knew that her friend would keep her secret.


Sophia kept her voice low. “I know it is dangerous and I don’t want to ruin my relationship with my lord husband, but sometimes I think about it.” She looked down at her belly and chuckled. “Not now, of course. Maybe every lady who has been married for more than a year considers it when other gentlemen flirt with them.”


A deep violet bottle caught her attention and she plucked it from the table on which it sat. “Did you feel like that too, when you were married?”


She smiled blissfully when she took a whiff of the perfume. “I must have this one. It smells like starlight and promises.”

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Sophia's comment on lovers and thoughts like that after a year of marriage had passed -  which had Darlene consider the situation she'd been in at that time.  She'd have kept those thoughts to herself if her friend had not come right out and asked it.  "I was never bored of Thomas, truth is we had very little time together even though married. He was away at sea all the time, leaving me for months to entertain myself." 

Yes Thomas, as perfect as he'd been, did have some share towards their marital misery.  "At first I merely flirted with a gentleman so old he might have been my grandfather, and then.  Well yes, I did take a lover.  It seemed the only way to fulfil my wish to be, well, close I suppose, to another."  Her voice was a whispered hush, even though it was al long ago now, and the husband she'd cheated on had passed on.  "I shall not try to change your mind on such things Sophia, but to say that in the end it only brought me heartbreak, and perhaps the worst, is the regrets I hold that I did not try hard enough to be a good wife."

Taking up a yellow bottle, she tried that.  It was a softer scent, one of the better of the ones she'd tried here so far.  Offering it to Sophia to smell it also she said, "Is this a little bit like springtime?"

"As for a hostessing some game, perhaps decide what proximity you want to have people within.   I think the failing with Kiligrews game was that it was all over the place, so that there was no communication nor excitement between people that discovered themselves caught within it.  So a smaller confine might be the better thing - perhaps it be held in a single garden, or single room in the castle. 

Darlene knew herself to love planning such things as this, but doing so had never gained her anything. Had not helped her to have successful relationships. Games, she'd learnt, were the flotsam and jetson of the seas.  

"And then, you need a novelty for people to engage in, something that they do not do usually.  Some curious craft perhaps, like inventing a hair style, or painting China.  Or activity, like jumping off a ladder onto a huge pile of cushions, or a ribbon dance.  There are so many things we never think to do, but that might be a little fun to try."  She inhaled slowly then with as much slowness exhaled.  Schooling her too easily upset emotions.  "Perhaps that is the very same as with your thoughts of lovers, the freshness of it might appeal.  But, conversely, imagine if one was to grow a relationship that is steadfast and dependable, with trust and depth of heart. Isn’t that the finest treasure any woman could  hope for."




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It sounded as if Darlene had been in the same situation that Sophia found herself in, separated from her husband by distance and duty. Though Juan was not her husband, that was how she thought of him. She had only wed Esteban to be with him. If he visited more often or if she lived in Spain with him, she would not even contemplate taking lovers. Like her friend, she had a need for closeness that wasn’t being fille. Would she be happy if Esteban paid more attention to her? If he shared her bed and brought her gifts and made her feel cherished? Like Darlene had pointed out, he was quite handsome and had a pleasing voice.


Probably not. How could I live without Henry and my Eros? Only Juan would be able to pull me away from them. She was so confused, just like the perfume in the silver bottle that she had just sniffed. It didn’t seem to know what it should smell like.


Darlene fared better in the scent department. Sophia took a whiff from the yellow bottle. “Oh, it does! I think it would suit you well.” Handing it back, she sampled another, which was quite interesting but not really her style. “I feel the same as you did,” Sophia confided. “My husband lives in the same house but he might as well be far across the sea. The more important one's position, the more responsibility and less time one has for personal things. He rarely speaks to me or touches me.” She looked down at her huge silk-covered belly. “I think he was drunk when this happened.


“When other gentlemen flirt with me, it makes me feel as there's a stirring of excitement and anticipation. I am trying to be a good wife but Lord Toledo has no interest in being a good husband. I feel like an afterthought. No lady likes to feel unappreciated.”


After sampling another scent in a turquoise bottle, Sophia held it out. “Try this one. It smells like the sea and makes me think of mermaids.”


Darlene’s explanation on how to plan games was very informative and the ideas she used as examples were all intriguing, even climbing up a ladder and falling on a pile of cushions, as silly as it sounded. It was as about as close as a lady would ever get to flying. “I am new to planning activities, not an expert like yourself. Your advice is invaluable to me. I shall think on it and see what I can come up with. Can I run my ideas by you when I settle on a few?”


For some reason, Darlene seemed a bit melancholy. Perhaps she should not have brought up the subject of lovers. No, that couldn’t be it, for she spoke of it again, comparing the thrill of a new game with the feeling of taking a lover. “Of course,” she replied, "if both partners want the same thing. Lord Toledo does not even trust me. He did not hire that bodyguard outside to protect me, but to spy on me. I want to get rid of him.”


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“I used to like honeysuckle scent, this is a bit like that, don’t you think?” Darlene wondered a bit more about the yellow bottle.  Despite Sophia’s enthuse, she was not yet certain.

While as for talk of lovelessness, her blond friend believed their live much the same.  While it was hard for Darlene to believe that anyone could have had just everything (like she’d had) and then also thought to throw it all away…

“Nice Gentlemen do not… ah, visit a wifes boudoir while in that condition.” Darlene went on to explain, “It was the same with Thomas, when I was, with child. He did not touch me, nor kissed, well only if I kissed him.”

She recalled how unhappy that had made her, and at the time she’d been so hoping that they could make a better go of it.  “It’s very difficult, I know.” She said this very quietly.  

Darlene tried to not think about the baby she’d never even looked at when it had been born. She’d hoped that doing what she had done – having a sill born presented and the life baby having been whisked away to, well one of her demands have been that she would not even know where.   Darlene had hoped that presentation of a still born, might have made it possible for Thomas to then forgive her. But in the end, it had not.

But somewhere, there was a baby, a girl or boy she did not know, and it was possibly the Cavandish or possibly Killington, neither had ever asked. Though she’d once found a letter that made her think the Duke would have provided for the child. 

Shaking her head back to the moment, Sophia was dreamily imagining her lovers.  “It is good that you are thinking about things before hand, my mistake was always acting before thinking.”  Darlene’s hand tightened on the yellow bottle as she decided she would have this one.

While now Sophia found one that was like the ocean, “Very fresh scent, but not at all floral.”  Darlene was fond of flowers, so this other one did not appeal to her.  “Would you feel like a mermaid it you wear it?”

Waving her hand to sweep away the compliment she then replied, “I am hardly an expert, I just like to imagine such things that might be fun. But actually I have rarely ever hosted a party. Most of what I have imagined never comes to pass. So I am just happy for you if you actually go ahead with your plans. That is much more important, don’t you know. Anyone can think, but it takes a special person to actually do.”

Seemingly out of the blue Sophia mentioned the guard and that she wanted to be rid of him. “Is he really so bad?” Darlene wondered out aloud, “if he is removed, then what will the next one be like?”  

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“Yes, there is definitely some honeysuckle in it, just the perfect amount, I believe."


Sophia’s mouth nearly dropped to the floor at Darlene’s revelation. She had a child? Why had she never mentioned it before? Was it a boy or a girl? She wanted to ask but since her friend seemed a bit depressed, she decided not to. What if it had died as an infant? She didn’t want to bring back sorrowful memories. “Unfortunately, he never touched me except on our wedding night, and he was distant even then. I think he only did it then so that I could not have our marriage annulled. So you see, I live without that kind of pleasure in my life and I yearn to experience it. Maybe the risks are worth it.” Her voice lowered to a whisper. “I have often entertained the thought that my lord husband prefers those of his own gender, but I cannot prove it.”


Her eyes sought Darlene’s. “I probably should not have said so much. But I know that you will keep my secrets.”


Sophia considered her friend’s question. “Maybe, though I hardly know what it is like to be a mermaid. And you know how frightened I am of the ocean. However, I have always been fond of the way it smells.” She set the turquoise bottle aside, carrying the purple one with her from counter to counter.


“I have thrown a few successful parties. I know how to entertain my guests, but have never been able to come up with activities they can participate in themselves. If we put our skills together, we should be able to dazzle everyone at court, perhaps even Their Majesties and other important personages. Wouldn’t that be amazing?”


She pulled the stopper out of a pastel pink bottle. One whiff and she sighed in delight. It smelled like strawberries and summer flowers, playful and mischievous. “I must have this one,” she exclaimed, holding it out to her friend.


Darlene brought up a detail that the young Countess had no considered before. Would Esteban choose a bodyguard that watched her even more closely than Karl did? One who really did leer at her? “I am hoping that my lord husband will decide not to hire another one or that I will be able to control the next one.   I am so so tired of being followed all the time. I have no reason why he is so paranoid. Other husbands trust their wives. Why can he not be one of them?”


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Sophia really had not known Darlene very long, having arrived at court some six months or even a year after her marriage.  Lady Oakham had been pregnant (though not heavily so) when she’d arranged the Ladies Opera where so many had performed, while Sophia had arrived to court in time to be one of the many guests that evening. Any number of persons had known Darlene was with child, but after the reported loss, nobody had ever asked her about it.  

News that Lord Toledo had only slept with Sophia once was the greater surprise.

“He had success after just one night?” Darlene blinked, that was amazing, improbable, nearly impossible.  “I must admit Sophia, your husband is seeming stranger by the minute.”

Darlene did not know men that well, but what she did know, was that they took satisfaction in the release of their seed.  Even if Lord Toldeo was so confidant as to believe that he needed only one attempt to impregnate his new wife, you’d have thought that for male pleasure sake he’d have had a few more sessions for satisfaction.

Sophia dropped her voice to a hush to whisper a theory.  Darlene’s eyes flared at the scandal of it, but after a moment she returned, “Perhaps you are right, but if word got out he’d loose his Ambassadorial position.” A lawbreaker could not serve in such an official role!

“Goodness Sophia.” Darlene was absorbedly distracted, this was the best bit of gossip shed heard of for… this topped everything ever.  So she nodded silently as her friend claimed she knew she could keep a secret.  It was a lesser sin that way, nodding is not the same as actually promising – and Darlene truly did think secret keeping was something she aspired to.

“Can I smell the purple one again?” Darlene asked as she noticed that of all the bottles Sophia seemed most attatched to that one.

“That is kind of you to offer, but it would only make me sad.” Darlene explained, “These things I have wanted so badly, but failed at, need to be all put aside. To compromise with a quarter measure would only prolong my heartache.”

But then Sophia found a fragrance that lit her face, it was like watching a blossom open to the sunshine.  Discarding the Purple, Darlene smelt the offered Pink, and then nodded agreeing, “This is quite perfect for you, why it makes me want a desert.  After this, lets go to a bakery, perhaps they will have some strawberry tarts.”

On the topic of Lady Toledos body guard, Darlene thought it obvious that if one needed to be fired then a new replacement would be hired.  “But Sophia, it wont be you he does not trust. It is the rapscallions of England that he is protecting you from.  I know for a certainty that ladies can be whisked away for ill means – and it’s an awful thing indeed to have to leap from a moving carriage, accidentally loosing one shoe, and getting mud in between your toes as you run for you life down a side street.

“Count your blessings that your husband, even if he is a depraved degenerate, thinks to protect you."

Thomas had come for Darlene that awful night, he’d managed to catch up to the villains and saw them off.  He’d been her hero.

Edited by Darlene Hamilton
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“Actually two times. Our wedding night was a little over a year ago and the second time was ….” Sophia looked down at her belly. “… Around seven months ago.” She laughed bitterly. “Maybe I should be happy he leaves me alone if his seed is that potent. I’d have a child every year and be pregnant for the rest of my life.”


Darlene kept bringing up interesting concepts that had never crossed the petite blonde’s mind. It was one of many reasons she liked her. If Esteban was more fond of men than of women, he would definitely lose his position and likely be kicked out of the courts of England and Spain. Maybe that was another reason he had married her and had agreed to raise Juan’s child. He would never be suspected of that particular sin … though in her opinion, it wasn’t a sin at all.


Her friend seemed quite shocked. “It’s probably not true. Every lady whose husband ignores her would suspect the same. Maybe he is one of those gentlemen who doesn’t care for intimacy. Some people are aloof and distant by nature. He does seem to enjoy being alone."


Sophia handed Darlene the purple bottle. “I’m buying this one. It’s so seductive. Maybe it will inflame my lord husband’s desire when I wear it.” She sighed longingly. “A girl can always dream.”


She thought it sad that her lovely companion felt the need to give up something for which she was so gifted, but there was nothing to do but accept her choice. “Very well. I shall speak of it no more, except to ask one question. During my first season, you were planning a commedia dell’arte with courtiers playing the roles. Do you mind if I steal that idea? I don’t know if it will ever happen, but it’s something I can work toward if I can find the right masks. Perhaps His Majesty would like to participate as well.”


Darlene liked her choice of perfume. “So that’s two for me. Now we need to find something for you.” She set the pink bottle next to the purple one. “I had hoped to go to Madame Garland’s after this, but stopping at the bakery sounds even more appealing.” And she would be able to sit down while eating, which would give her a chance to rest before the two ladies resumed their shopping. “Strawberries are my favorite fruit, you know.”


Sophia shivered as Darlene spoke of ladies being abducted. It almost sounded as if she had experienced herself. She was absolutely certain that Italian who had claimed to love her had planned to kidnap her but he had not been very smart about it. What lady in her right mind would step inside a carriage without knowing who was in it?  She had also been terrified when she had heard a story about beautiful blonde singers being kidnapped by Turks and locked inside their harems. She fit that description perfectly. But she was older and wiser now and not as easily frightened. “I do appreciate his protection, but I’m certain that he spies on me for the Ambassador. My husband doesn’t trust me, plain and simple. Another bodyguard might be unwilling to spy on a lady.”


She sniffed another bottle. “But enough about me. I should not have burdened you with my problems. We should be happy with another exciting season ahead of us. Is there anything specific you wish to accomplish? Or are you content to bask in the adoration of your admirers? You must have quite a few even now."


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"No I think you were right the first time, men do not abstain unless they have made a vow of abstinence to the church, where as yours has done just the opposite. By marrying he is vowed to procreate. Only twice in nearly 2 years... definitely suggests his interest lays somewhere else."

"And if that's the case, then it's hardly your fault if your gentle heart strays." Here Darlene gave a heavy sigh. "Life is such a complex thing, the correct answer is never so easy to find. While I fear that route will not provide you happiness, to remain on the one you are on is also I'll fated."

And so Sophia chose two perfumes, The Pink; a sweet strawberry scent, which was much more to her character. And also the Purple; a sensual seductive type, that her loveless marriage had driven her to. 

"Yes the dear artist Marino Bambini, who attended court all too briefly, worked with me on that plan. He painted me backdrop curtain, it is wonderous, a scene from Europe. But when he suddenly left, I found it so much harder to continue. You certainly may have that idea.  It was hardly my own in the first place, it is Italys ingenue, which I had planned to borrow. Now it is yours, you may even have the curtain, I have no need of it anymore."

Though It might be harder for Sophia as an Ambassadors wife to put on such a show, who was to know what budjet Spain provided. (Sophia brought two perfumes with barely the blink of an eye. )

"Bodyguards shall do what the men paying them wishes.  Perhaps this is something you should talk about with your husband. Perhaps let him know that you will keep his secret if he allows you to have yours."

"Yes let's head to the bakery next." Darlene agreed as she approached the shopkeeper, she would put her Yellow bottle of honeysuckle fragrance upon her brother's account. 

It was as they finished up in the shop that Sophia asked her about her own plans for the season, mentioning admirers, 'even now'. 

"Even now...?" Darlene repeated,  "do you mean now that...  well, what do you mean Lady Toledo?"




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“I’ve also considered the possibility he has a mistress. Maybe he is in love with a commoner whom he would never be allowed to wed. Or his lover is married and they can’t risk her husband finding out so it was better that he marry an innocent young girl who would simply accept his lack of libido. There are many explanations and I think I have contemplated them all.”


Sophia took back the purple bottle. “I am not sure what the best choice for me is. I can, of course, do nothing about it now. Maybe when the baby is born, he or she will give me all the love I need. If I do stray, it will be with a gentleman with whom I am in love and who loves me in return. Perhaps I am meant to live unhappily ever after.”


Darlene told her the story behind the idea that she wanted to steal. “I think it appeals to me so much because it is Italian. You can take the girl out of Italy but you can’t take Italy out of the girl. I have many fond memories of watching performances in Venice and it would be fun to recreate one here in England … just as I am attempting to make opera popular with the English. I have never heard of that painter but I would love to use the backdrop he made for you.”


Her friend’s idea had merit. “First I must find proof that he has a secret. Maybe he doesn’t trust me because he’s paranoid. Or perhaps a former lover hurt him by cheating on him in the past. His spying is hurting me too but I doubt he cares.” As they approached the counter to pay for their purchases, she added: “I have never confronted him about it. Maybe it is time I did.”


Sophia’s innocuous comment seemed to have hit a nerve. Did Darlene think she was accusing her of something? She noted the sudden return to formality. “English is a difficult language and I do not think I will ever speak it perfectly. What I meant was that the season just started yesterday and you must have many admirers already.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

“I don’t think God wants anyone to be unhappy.” Darlene replied, “But some of us just make all the wrong choices.”

Meanwhile she could tell that Sophia was trying to make excuses for her husband being a reprobate, but it was too late to take the thought back.  It was too story-book sense to be anything other. 

“Then it is yours.” The backdrop that Marino had painted was thus gifted to Sophia. It was in fact back in Chesterford (along with a number of other unusual gifts that Darlene had been given over the years ) but it would be simple enough to get it sent to wherever her friend needed.

“You don’t need actual proof my darling, you just need him to think you have it.” Darlene’s acting background made such semantics seem child’s play.   She might have even been pleased to help Sophia out with this, but it was two edged sword, for she knew that by giving her this plot to use she was ill fating Sophia’s marriage forever.

Sophia would never have a happily ever after if she went though with this. 

“It is something to think about anyhow. But meanwhile, you might appreciate all he does for you, his care and protection, and even his generosity with your allowance.” Darlene tried to point out these thing in Esteban’s favour.

Would it have helped if someone had pointed out the good things about Thomas even when he’d been neglecting her in favour of his career? She hardly knew. Could not know. Because she’d not had a true friend there to do that for her.

“Oh. I see. Forgive me, I did not understand.” She uttered as Sophia explained in tone of apology.  “But that is of no importance anyhow.” 

She would still buy the lovely honeysuckle fragrance. 

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