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When Books Fly | Saturday September 17th, late afternoon (Open)

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A small shop, rather dark, but for those enamoured of the printed word a treasure cave.

A cheery fire crackled on the compact hearth, warming the space and liberating the fragrance of fine paper and calfskin. All the modern English authors are in the collection and topics available range from embroidery to exploration, cookery to cuckoldry. The editions are of the finest quality - no cheapjack woodblocks here.


At least one of the partners are always in attendance, Mr Angus being a stout Scot of about 45 and Mr Robertson an Oxford graduate of about 30.



Stepping into a bookshop was like stepping into a whole new world … one full of imagination and wonder. Sophia adored the scent of leather, parchment, and ink and the sound of the crisp rustling of the pages when she flipped through them. And the sight of so much knowledge stacked to the ceiling always filled her with awe. This bookstore was particularly comprehensive and she had shopped here a couple of times during the month she and Esteban had lived in Windsor.


As she entered her final months of pregnancy, she was reading more novels. They whisked her mind away from her worries and transported her to another place where the protagonists often faced worse problems. Reading about the dilemmas of fictional characters who always triumphed in the end made her feel better about her chances of resolving her own. When compared with saving the world, how hard could it be to convince Juan that the baby growing inside her was his (if it wasn’t)?


Some of the customers looked at her a bit oddly because she was still wearing the maternity gown she'd had on all day. It looked nothing like the fashions other ladies wore, but it was comfortable and that mattered most to Sophia now. She ignored the stares as she pulled out a large tome with a butterfly on the cover. The young Countess loved butterflies as much as she loved bookshops.


It was so big she had trouble holding it. Leaning against a bookcase and settling it on top of her baby bump, she balanced it with one hand and opened it with the other, turning to a random page containing beautiful paintings of different kinds of butterflies. After gazing at them a few moments, she turned another page and the book flew out of her hands. It landed hard on her foot, sending pain shooting through her brain.


“Ouch!” she shrieked.


Edited by Sophia de la Cerda
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  • Sophia de la Cerda changed the title to When Books Fly | Saturday September 17th, late afternoon (Open)

Naturally, no trip into town (especially one over the period of two days) would be complete without a visit to the bookstore, particularly given the rate at which Lord Athenry was tearing through Ethics, the posthumous work of Spinoza. Although he was accustomed to pouring over lofty tomes dealing with moral and political philosophy, theology, and aesthetics, a hunch told him that fiction was in order, something to cleanse the palette. To let him escape, and thus, return to re-center.

Failing that, he he could escape to the White for an evening. At one point such a thought would have induced guilt.

That first season at court, short and…eventful though it may have been, had been on Cadell’s mind of late, and so it was somewhat serendipitous (or at least passing ironic) that his browsing would be interrupted by one of the first people that he’d met using her opera singer lungs to howl like a veritable banshee.

Of course, Athenry (dressed in an ensemble of turquoise and gold lace brocade over cadet grey, with an onyx cravat pin and red-heeled shoes in the French style) did not recognize the yell at first, being one row of shelves down and another over, but he was, at the best of times, easily startled. The viscount craned his head at the sound, only to shake it upon seeing the German girl-turned-Spanish countess with a half-smile playing upon his lips. “My lady,” he called out, walking towards Sophia as fast as his hobble would let him.“Are you well?”

It was just a book, but his understanding (which was, admittedly, very limited) was that pregnant women were rather vulnerable and even more susceptible to emotion, and Lady Toledo was very pregnant. To the extent that she rebukes court attire entirely… He observed, errantly. Bending down to pick up the book, he scrutinized its contents – in order, the spine, the butterly-emblazoned ccover, and a loose flip through the pages – and held it out to return to it. “I shouldn’t be surprised to find you here, Lady Toledo. I do not think it’s our first meeting in such a store, in fact.”

With a little, lilting laugh, he added, “Although it may be the most initially worrisome. By Jove, woman, with all my friendship – I thought perhaps somebody was getting stabbed, or…” The laugh grew nervous and he tugged at the red ribbon accenting his cravat, unsure how to joke about this topic even with a friend. “That it was time for your child to join this world in earnest.”

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A white haze of pain momentarily obscured her vision and Sophia took several long deep breaths while it cleared. She had probably startled everyone in the bookstore … and many people walking outside ... with her operatic scream. A clerk would most likely tell her to leave and then she wouldn’t be able to buy the butterfly book or the novels she had come here for.


However, the voice she heard was not that of a clerk. It was a very familiar and welcome voice, and she smiled as she watched Lord Athenry hobble toward her, leaning heavily on his ever-present cane. He had been one of the first courtiers she had encountered when she had moved to England and one of her first friends. In fact, they had met here at Windsor, and had later bonded over their love of books.


“Yes, I am fine. A book attacked me, but I fought it off.” Her laugh was light and lyrical, though a bit subdued because of the agony pulsing through her foot. She watched Cadell pick up the book and flip through it, noting how fashionable he looked. In the two years they had been at court, both of them had moved up in the world.


“Thank you, my lord,” she said, taking the book from him. “And I believe those were my words to you the first time we met at a book shop, though in admittedly more atrocious English.” She laughed again as he continued, hoping to put him at ease. Like most gentlemen, he seemed a bit nervous when speaking of pregnancy. “Though it is difficult for even me to believe, I still have nearly two months to go. I am sorry that I alarmed you.”


She set the book on a table. “I missed you while you were away. How was France? Did you enjoy your time there?”


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Upon the heels of limping lord The Clerk arrived.  His eyes held an concern for the heavy pregnant woman who shrieked! It was a labour pain, surely.

"Shall I run for a doctor? Yes I shall run for a Doctor."  

To the gentleman there (whom he imagined was the ladies husband) he said, "Please use my cushioned chair behind the counter, or should she need, there is a pallet out the back... and can you please check that nobody steals anything!"  The Clerk was ready to dash out the door. 

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“I had thought you’d said something along those lines,” Lord Athenry confessed, grinning at his old friend. “Windsor this season has brought something nostalgic out in me, I fear. A terribly un-modern trait.” Chuckling, he explained, “The other day, I shared a drink with somebody overlooking the waterfall.”

He could recall vividly a younger Sophia dancing at that spot, with that busybody Lady Ravenscar watching on. He’d even rather liked the latter, for a woman past her prime deadest on playing matchmaker and court matron, up until the day she’d antagonized his future wife during their first, tearful meeting.

Yes, they’d both certainly advanced, and were coming into their own. “You needn’t apologize, my lady, ‘twas only concern for you,” Cadell insisted, shaking his head. “As for France, ah…I do not know where to begin. It is a different world, despite certain French attitudes and, er, Parisian hygienic quirks. Madame la duchesse was happy to return, and the Parisian salon is one of the most enlivening experiences I have partook in, while the months we spent conveying the goodwill of His Majesty in the wake of the…unpleasantries at the time were rather like watching the world’s longest-running ballet. Impressive, perhaps, but not at all like our court.”

He could go on, of course, but needed to soften this fondness with drawbacks to remain politic. I was at ease there, surrounded by the cultured, attending Mass openly, basking in the glory of a Catholic king. There were reasons aplenty he had added French touches to his wardrobe. “And, of course, I miss-“ Before he could finish his sentence, a clerk ran up to them, anxious beyond belief

“No, no doctor,” Cadell immediately answered, halfway to huffing. Was everyone in Windsor Town going somewhat mad today? First, Chichester had spirited him out of the antiquarian’s in a most hurried manner, next, this clerk was seemingly sent into a panic based on a single (admittedly, almost glass-breaking) scream. But George had also demonstrated a new application of one’s personal ailments, and so Cadell thought to try his own luck at it. “It is discomfort, painful but not labor.”

“What the lady needs is a place to sit and catch her breath. Is there a quieter part of the store, perhaps with an additional chair? For the wife of an ambassador, after all.” The viscount attempted to sound authoritative, but turned away to look at Sophia, tossing her a wink. “And…perhaps a pot of tea, to settle her stomach. Two cups, so that I may continue to watch her. ”

Edited by Cadell Mortimer
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Sophia returned Cadell's grin. “Ahh, yes, the waterfall. I plan to visit it too. I wonder what happened to Lady Ravenscar. I hope she is well. The two of you were among the first courtiers I met after I moved to England and I’m surprised either of you understood a word I said. I still think of that day occasionally and it always brings a smile to my face.”


Cadell spoke of France with fondness. It almost seemed as if he had felt more at home in France than he did in England. Maybe he did. He had obviously enjoyed his trip. She wondered what he meant by ‘Parisian hygienic quirks’ but decided not to ask. If they only took baths once a year, she really didn’t want to know. Or maybe they shaved in places that the English didn’t, which wouldn’t bother her at all, as they did the same in Venice. It was a practice she still engaged in.


Sophia had always wanted to attend a salon, and would have asked what they were like if a clerk had not hurried over to them, thinking that she was in labor. Fighting the urge to laugh robbed her of speech and she was grateful that Cadell took charge and assured him that she was fine. He asked for a quiet place for her to rest, which would give them some privacy in which to talk for a bit. And he threw her rank around as well.


Her friend’s wink nearly sent her into peals of laughter. She managed to hold it back, but she did sputter a bit. Drawing on her considerable acting skills, Sophia placed a hand on her huge belly. “Yes,” she gasped, “I need to rest for a few moments. And I would very much appreciate a cup of tea.”


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The keeper was relieved, highly relieved, with the assurance that a doctor was not needed.  Especially after discovery she was Ambassadorial, which might mean that the man with her was also.  "Ah yes, certainly." his brow furrowed as he wondered how it had come to be that he, a humble shopkeeper in Windsor was playing host to Foreign emissaries.  They both spoke such very good English however, and Cadell's accent even sounded Irish!

A rat was smelt, were these two yanking his chain? 

Perhaps it was law enforcement needed to arrest impersonators. 

He showed the pair through to the humble back room, while he tried to figure out what to do.   The room was dimly lit with but a single and high up window.   Amongst numerous boxes, possibly containing books, was a low bed neatly made with good English wool blankets.  A square unfinished wood table pushed against one wall with three chairs at it, piles of books on this table also. And a book case that contained no books, but held bread, a round of cheese, and jars of preserves. There was no fire in this room.

"I'll need to go next door to get a pot of tea." he had a friendly arrangement with Martha there.  He disappeared, in his wake the sound of his shops door bell jingling. 


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  • 2 weeks later...

“And I as well, although I confess that our last meeting was on less-than-ideal terms,” Athenry agreed on the matter of the waterfall and Lady Ravenscar. If her sentiments towards Louise were anything to go by, he couldn’t envision a scenario in which the Dowager Lady Ravenscar would have approved of Sophia’s own, very advantageous marriage. “Regrettable, that.”

But hardly the most regrettable turn of events in my life that began at Windsor, he contemplated. Nostalgic iu]indeed.[/u]

The bizarre little shopkeeper bustled about, but complied, Cadell in turn having to mask his amusement – seldom being one to even consider pulling rank. Although, now that I have one to speak of… Impressively, it worked (or seemed to, anyways), with the caveat that the back of the bookstore had the ambience of a particularly cheery monastic cell. Nodding approvingly, he palmed a shilling from his coin purse, pressing a half-sovereign* into the hand of the shopkeep before he left with a succinct, “Good man. I’ll see that Lord Toledo hears of your kindness.”

Not suspecting that their identities as nobility in the shadow of a castle were somehow in question, he was content to pay the man no more mind as he departed, instead pulling out a chair for Sophia and muttering, “A peculiar sort, no? Admittedly, I was unsure that it would work…I’ve never been a horribly authoritative type.”

Smiling, he took a seat of his own. “…as I was saying, my lady, it has been too long. Other than the obvious, are you well?”


*Roughly the price of a book, according to this post

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Sophia grabbed the butterfly book and tucked it under her arm, beckoning for Karl, who was waiting outside, to come in. She didn’t want to put her friend in harm’s way because Esteban found out she was alone with another man. The clerk obligingly led them into a room at the back of the bookstore that looked like a combination storage room and living space. Was this where he slept at night? Did the shop carry such valuable books that somebody needed to be there all the time? Her curiosity momentarily eclipsed her mirth. Lord Athenry gave the man a coin for his trouble and he left, presumably to get a pot of tea. In truth, she was rather thirsty.


She sat down in the chair he pulled out for her. “Very,” she agreed as to the clerk’s character. “But he is at least efficient. I didn’t mean to give him such a scare … ” Her laughter finally bubbled out of her, light and lyrical.


“You did well. If you had not been born a nobleman, you could have had a career on the stage. I think he believed that you were the Ambassador until you mentioned his name. Lord Toledo will certainly hear of this, which is why I brought my bodyguard in. My lord husband prefers that I am not alone with gentlemen, even those who are old and dear friends. In fact, perhaps you should do as you told the clerk and tell my lord husband yourself. I would like you to meet him.”


It had, indeed, been a very long time. “I am well. I’m afraid my life has been quite boring. We had to stay in England for recess instead of traveling to Spain as usual. My baby will be born in the house that we rented here at Windsor. Do you know Lady Kendishall? She will be Lady Chichester in a few days. She plays the cello and I am going to try to arrange for us to play and sing at the new heir’s christening next week.  Last season, we held a concert together and I broke a vase with my voice."


Sophia smiled at Cadell. “What about you? Your life must be a lot more interesting than mine.  And what brought you to the bookstore today?"


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

 “I ought to have adopted another language to truly commit to the ruse,” Cadell considered, giving Karl a thoughtless, reflexive nod whilst imagining what life would be like were he an actor. “French, maybe, or even Spanish.” On the topic of Spanish, Sophia then proposed that he meet Lord Toledo, apparently for propriety’s sake. A logical proposal, although perhaps awkward. “I’d quite like that, I should think,” he agreed, with an eye towards diplomacy and the duty he felt towards France. Perhaps the ambassador would be a useful contact

’Well met, Lord Toledo,’ his inner voice japed. ’I’ve known your lady wife longer than you, and my own is known for her favor with the Sun King. A light smile crossed his face.

“If nothing else, ‘twould give me a reason to refresh my knowledge of Español. I have been out of practice. Although…hm.” He would wait for an opportunity, for a moment to bring it up, and accordingly apologized, “Forgive me, the mind wanders.” The suggestion by Beverley that he might seek favor among Lady Dorothea and the Queen had prompted him to consider putting his linguistic talent to use with learning Her Majesty’s tongue. Sophia would likely

Moving on, Athenry took in her admission that life had been boring, an understandable sentiment that he should have predicted. “A vase?” He belted out a lilting laugh. “Brava, Lady Toledo, you made me regret my absence.” With a smile, he explained his role in their apparently-shared connection, “I dined with the future Lady Chichester once. Her betrothed, in fact, is one of my closest friends. A good man. Sharp, but creative. I will be standing as a groomsman for him.”

Genuinely chuffed that Chichester had asked him, Cadell went on, rubbing his chin in thought. “As to my own life…I am aspiring to forge ties and create something of an intellectual, philosophic circle. It is still more of a dream than a reality…” A self-deprecating grin. “Multiple dreams, really, but one needs a purpose. And without Lords in session, as a Catholic…” His voice slowly quieted down and trailed off, not wanting to trouble Lady Toledo with the way formal doors were closed to the faithful.

Cadell shrugged. “So it goes. With such plans and issues afoot, I came here looking for fiction, in fact. To cleanse the palette, hm?”

Edited by Cadell Mortimer
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“I will introduce the two of you at the next court event, if I can pin him down. We usually enter together, part ways, and I don’t see him until he’s ready to go home. I’m sure you know that the Spanish and the French don’t get along, but I see no reason why that animosity should extend to personal relationships. I have some French friends and he does not mind that I spend time with them.”


Her eyes widened. “You speak Spanish? I have been learning it since I married but my command of the language is far from perfect. It’s similarity with Italian is both a blessing and a curse. Perhaps we can improve our skills by practicing together. I could also use some help with French. Lord Kingston was teaching me when I was his ward, but those lessons ended when I wed a Spaniard.  Spanish became more important."


Cadell seemed impressed with the feat she had performed last season. “I didn’t think I would be able to do it, to be honest. I think it is one of those once in a lifetime things and I will never be able to break glass with my voice again.” Sophia grinned. “But that won’t stop me from trying.”


She had not known that Lord Athenry was a friend of Lord Chichester. “I will be singing at their wedding. I know both of them quite well. Lord Chichester is my lord husband’s friend as well. Maybe you can mention him when you meet Lord Toledo. He will surely think highly of you, no matter your French connections, if he knows that Lord Chichester enjoys your company."


His dream, as he put it, sounded intriguing to Sophia. Assuming he was talking about a gathering of like-minded gentlemen, she offered: “My lord husband may be interested in that as well.”


So Cadell was looking for fiction. “I came here for similar reasons, to find some diversions to while away the time, particularly when I go into confinement.”  She indicated the butterfly book.  "This one will help me with my sketching and painting skills.  I can copy the drawings.  They're quite lovely and I adore butterflies."


Sophia lowered her voice. “Soon we will share the same faith. I am pretty certain that I will convert. This child will be raised as Catholic. My lord husband is adamant about that.”

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  • 5 weeks later...

It was, of course, an unspoken fact that the Duchess of Portsmouth was heavily supported by le Roi, at least when she had been a mistress, but Cadell kept his sympathies for France apparent but understated – and she was correct in that the Sun King’s quarrel was not necessarily his. Asked if  he could speak Spanish, he smiled as he managed a response that was neither broken nor especially experienced, saying, “Mi español es…un poco deficiente*.”

“I manage it easier than Dutch, at least, although your native tongue alludes me.” Lady Toledo seemed quite into the idea of him meeting Toledo, which – beyond being the civil and proper thing to do when a gentleman had a respectful friendship with a lady – he was quite supportive of. A friend of Chichester’s would likely be a friend of his, at least if such a friendship was rooted in common interest and not politics. “But it is settled, I’ll make his acquaintance forthwith – at the wedding, if nothing else.”

Sophia spoke then of her confinement-to-be, which he made a mental note to inquire about, and – most interestingly – of her conversion to Catholicism. A single brown eyebrow went up, then his smile grew broad. Praised be Jesus Christ! His demeanor went from polite and attentive to genuinely pleased: regardless of her intention in doing so, the saying went that there was no salvation outside the Church.

“I suppose it’s to be expected for one in your position,” Cadell evaluated quietly. It might have been easier – if only just – for a foreigner married to a Spaniard to live as a Catholic in England, one supposed. Although I’ve seen firsthand how they make no such allowance for Frenchwomen close to His Majesty. “But for whatever it is worth… I am quite pleased to hear this.”

“Surely God will be watching over you during your confinement." He ordinarily endeavored to not trouble his feminine friends with matters devout, but his hushed approval must have been palpable. "And if there is ought myself or my wife might be for you and Lord Toledo…”

*My Spanish is...somewhat deficient, in the sense of "a little rusty".

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“Most people tell me that Dutch is easier to learn than German, perhaps because we have so many articles. The two languages are similar. When we went to Amsterdam, I had no trouble understanding Dutch, though speaking it was more difficult. I have been studying that language as well.  Spanish will help you if you want to learn Italian.  In my case, it was the other way around.”


As Sophia wished to spend more time with Lord Athenry, she thought that meeting Esteban was imperative. It was rare to find courtiers who were as fond as reading as she was, and she looked forward to discussing books with him. They could also recommend books to each other. “I shall be sure to introduce you to him at the wedding.”


She assumed that her husband would be in a good mood after watching his friend get married. Of course, he might also be sour because of the state of his own marriage … which was all his fault for avoiding her like the plague “He likes to read too, you know, though I’m not sure he reads anything in English.”


Cadell’s entire disposition changed when she mentioned converting. Sophia could tell how pleased he was, even before he said it. “I have been considering it for a long time but now I’m certain that that it is the right thing to do.” Her smile was serene. “In fact, you know of this before my lord husband. I plan to tell him tomorrow. I will still attend Protestant services to make connections, but in my heart, I am Catholic.”


Sophia believed that God would be with her no matter what her faith (unless she was an atheist, of course). Both Protestants and Catholics worshiped the same God, just in different ways. She still didn’t understand why they couldn’t just admit that and get along with each other.


“I will keep that in mind,” she said of his offer. “And maybe by this time next year, you and your lady wife will have a child of your own. I think you will make an amazing father.”


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