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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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