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Adventure Awaits: Main Carnival Thread | Wednesday late morning/early afternoon, Open to All


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Charles, Susan and Lady Pembroke

 

There was a pause to watch acrobats climb upon one another and exhibit great balance and strength.  Charles would have liked to be so nimble.

"I had a dream in which your brother was quite unreasonable and refused to allow our betrothal," Charles revealed quietly. "Usually my dreams of you are far nicer," he added with a smile.  It was an attempt to flatter as he did not really have dreams about her, other than snippets.  Other ladies of his acquaintance were more apt to haunt his dreams.  His statement was intended to hedge his hopes that Pembroke would not only consent, but offer a generous dowry so that he might purchase Dorchester House and Bagshot from his wards.  

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John and Anne-Elisabeth

 

Anne-Elisabeth winked saucily. “You’ve been closer to me than most people.”

 

A platter of bread and cheese was placed in front of them. She didn’t miss the way the waitress leaned close to John, giving him a good look at her ample cleavage if he was so inclined. The slim Countess envied her figure but not her lifestyle. She most likely turned tricks on the side.

 

“Jack,” After cutting a slice of each and placing the cheese on the bread, she studied his face. “That nickname suits you,” she decided. She took a bite and washed it down with a sip of wine. "This is pretty good.  Try some."

 

Anne-Elisabeth understood what John was alluding to and favored him with a sultry smile. “There are indeed many new things to discover.” She fully expected that endeavor to be every bit as exciting as the carnival … although much more private.

 

“Let’s stick with Alissa and Jack for now. Maybe our nicknames will change as we get to know each other better, or maybe not.” She didn’t think she needed to tell him that she abhorred cutesy nicknames or those that were based on personality traits or physical attributes. He probably felt the same.

 

It was impossible not to hear the trumpeting and roaring of exotic animals. “Me too, but let’s finish here first. There’s no need to rush.” Anne Elisabeth grinned. “I am yours until the astronomy event tonight.”

 

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Charles, Susan, and Lady Pembroke

 

Charles had not answered her question. Had he done something to irritate Philip? Susan certainly hoped not. If so, they would never be able to marry. His smile made her heart flutter yet again, as did his revelation that he dreamed of her. “I dream of you too, and our future together.” Most mornings she woke up with a smile on her face. But on a few mornings ...

 

“I’ve also had some nightmares that are similar to yours.” Some of them featured his former mistress marrying his brother and having to endure her presence at family gatherings. She hoped that he had changed his mind about that dreadful plan. In other nightmares, Charles had second thoughts or even jilted her at the alter.

 

Their stroll took them past the main tent, where two stages were set up on either side of the entrance. One was occupied by two jugglers tossing clubs back and fort and the other by a trainer with a group of monkeys that were performing humorous tricks. One of them suddenly snatched a hat off of an onlooker and put it on. strutting in the direction of the other stage with a wide grin on its human-like face. A juggler threw his club over, the  monkey jumped, grabbed it, and flung it back.  The juggler caught it effortlessly and tossed it back to his partner.

 

Susan laughed as she watched them, noticing that her mother seemed amused too. “I have not written to Lord Pembroke yet. I think it is best that my lady mother tells him about us. I assume that eventually he will want to meet you. I would not be surprised if he tests you in some way to see if you really care for me.”

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The Toledos

 

When the cart stopped, one of the acrobats leapt onto the edge of the cart and flipped right over Sophia’s head, landing on the ground on the other side. She laughed with delight. “Give him some coins,” she encouraged Esteban as the young man bowed to them.

 

I hope we see some tigers and lions,” she replied. The young Countess adored cats of all kinds. She knew there were some in the Tower, but that place scared her and she never wanted to go there.  They were probably less dangerous here anyway, as they had been trained bu people who knew how to care for and control them.  The big cats in the Tower were probably kept in small cages so courtiers could walk by and gawk at them.

 

Sophia didn’t really have much of a choice as to where they went. The servants would obey whatever orders her husband gave them. As they neared the large tent, she heard the unmistakable sounds of wild animals not too far away. “I wonder where that’s coming from,” she said, looking up at her husband. “That’s where we need to go.”

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ALL

 

A young man wearing bright colors jumped up on a platform. “Come one, come all,” he cried in a loud, clear voice. “A wild animal show will be starting in fifteen minutes at the arena. You don’t want to miss it!” He shouted the announcement several times and then jumped down.

 

At the arena, there was a table beside the entrance to the benches where a woman was collecting fees. Two brawny men stood to either side of her, ready to throw out anybody who attempted to sneak in.

 

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The Toledos

Esteban signaled the soldier to give coins to the acrobat.  The copper coins were with the soldier, while the Count kept the silver to himself.  The fact that his wife wanted to see beasts was fine with him.  He had seen enough acrobats at court functions.  Wild beasts were not seen at courts, so were far more rare.  It was what made the Tower of London such a popular attraction.

"It seems the show is about to start," Toledo answered his wife as he moved up beside her.  The servants pulled the cart to the entrance and Esteban paid for all the Spaniards to enter the tent.

A stray juggler was trying to earns some coin from the people gathering for the wild beast show.  Sophia would be able to see Louis, Nicci and Lucy in the distance, as well as Charles Whitehurst escorting a couple of ladies. 

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Charles and the Herberts

It was always flattering to have a lady dream about being with you in the future.  He wondered idly whether Davina and Darlene had experienced such dreams.  He had not seen either at the carnival yet.  He could only hope that Darlene would not appear.  Would she create a scene?  Catriona might even be worse, should she appear.

The jugglers and monkey were entertaining to watch.  Charles laughed along with others.  This was a good way to relieve anxieties that he was feeling., but he continued to keep an eye out for the ladies that could cause him scandal.  Any of those ladies could convince Lady Pembroke to reject his suit.  "I will meet Pembroke if he wishes.  He may hold against me that he thinks our encounters in earlier seasons were inappropriate.  I m hoping to find someone he respects to speak up on my behalf."

It looked like a wild animal show was about to begin. "Would you like to see the animals, or use this opportunity to visit the fortune teller, while the crowds are distracted.?"

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John and Anne-Elizabeth

He liked the way she flirted.

Easy and confident. Did she, he wondered., have a shy side as well?

She was made as all those of her sex were and so he expects she did but was she too over-confident now to have left that side of her go?

He was secretly pleased that she coupled his name and hers but just nodded his head in agreement.

"Easy enough to use and remember."

"As for changing them  ..... who's to say. I find nothing wrong in keeping them."

"There is plenty of time for additional findings is there not? And besides sudden discoveries can also lead to new possibilities."

The word play between them could not be mistaken for anything but what it was.

The chemistry was clearly there and they both knew it.

She then said no rush to depart but then she added that last bit.

"Perhaps it will rain"

He mumbled into his tankard as he took a long swig.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Charles, Susan, and Lady Pembroke

 

So Charles had vexed Philip in the past, before he found out that they had been spending time alone together? She didn’t count that incident as a problem anymore, since he was now allowed to see her, albeit chaperoned. Susan had dared to hope that they had never met. She supposed that he might have had to stop her brother’s volatile tendencies in an official capacity. The Earl had been arrested so many times that it was definitely possible. And Philip was the type of person to blame somebody even when they were just doing their job.

 

“What exactly happened between the two of you?” If she knew, maybe she could use her brother’s affection for her to alter his opinion of the gentleman she wished to marry. After all, Charles took his duties seriously. Wasn’t that the type of man he wanted his sister to marry?

 

“Let’s go see the animals,” Susan suggested. Lady Pembroke nodded her assent. “Then we can visit the fortune teller.”

 

As they began walking toward the arena, she asked: “What do you mean by getting somebody to speak on your behalf? Impress my mother and she will definitely speak well of you. She has more influence over him than anybody else. You could also talk to my other brother Thomas. He is much more … reasonable … and I'm pretty sure he already knows that I am fond of you.”

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The Toledos

 

The acrobat took the coins, bowed again, and cartwheeled off to join his companions. Though she did not see the herald, Sophia heard the announcement. Whoever he was, he had a very nice voice. She wondered if he could sing.

 

“Yes, let’s hurry so that we can get seats in the front.” She was so short that anyone who sat in front of her blocked her view. She could stay in the cart but her legs were starting to cramp up and she needed to stretch them.

 

They didn’t have to go far. The arena was fairly close to the large tent and they were among the first to arrive. Sophia’s eyes swept the crowd while Esteban paid the fees, frowning when she saw Lord Langdon with two ladies who looked enough alike to be mother and daughter. She recognized the younger one as a maid-of-honor to the Queen. He just dumped one of my best friends and he’s wasted no time in finding another lady to replace her with. I wish I could kick him in the gonads.

 

The arena was a roped-off open air area with benches surrounding it. Some of the commoners stared suspiciously at the Spaniards and kept their distance. Perhaps they had never seen foreigners before.

 

Sophia clumsily got to her feet and held out her arms to her husband so that he could lift her from the cart.

Edited by Sophia de la Cerda
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John and Anne-Elisabeth

 

Anne-Elisabeth shrugged. “Fine with me.” She grinned wickedly. “At least I now know what name to scream out should the need arise.” She hoped that John didn’t take offense at her blatant innuendo. The Barbadian Countess had never been known for her subtlety and she liked it that way.

 

“Of course,” she replied. “We haven’t known each other very long. There will certainly be some pleasant surprises along the way.” With any luck, there would be no unpleasant ones, like offers of marriage. At the moment, she had absolutely no desire to shackle herself to one man for the rest of her life, no matter how appealing he might be.

 

Perhaps she would change her tune eventually, but not while being a merry widow was so much fun. Her future husband would also have to understand her and not expect her to suddenly turn into a typical English wife the moment she said her vows. She would always be wild and free and unwilling to abandon her libertine ways.

 

Anne-Elisabeth didn’t hear him mumble. Her attention was diverted by a crier announcing a wild animal show in fifteen minutes. “Well, I guess we do need to finish up rather quickly if we want to catch that show.”

 

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The Toledos

Esteban was not keen on Sophia getting off the cart.  He had been told that most any physical strain on his wife might cause her going into premature labor.  A midwife had told him that the risks were the greatest with the first pregnancy, so he was suitably wary.  Who knew if there would be a chance for a second one, given the inexplicable inability of Don Juan to sire other children.

Nevertheless, he indulged her wishes and lifted her from the cart, while servants stood by.  Fortunately, she had a small frame.

"We will not sit in the front row with wild animals," the Count instructed.  He chose a place two rows back, while a servant placed a blanket on the bench so that the Countess could sit more comfortably and not have her dress dirtied by the shoddy workmanship and cleanliness of the arena.  A servant sat to the inside of Sophia and her husband sat to the outside, while another servant stood ready nearby.

Esteban noted the gawking onlookers.  "We may be as exotic as the animals they hope to show us in this act," he noted quietly to him wife in Spanish.  It was time to see what the carnival planned for this act.

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Charles, Susan, Lady Pembroke

"During a session of Lords, your brother struck another lord, which is prohibited by rule.  I escorted him to the Tower," Charles revealed.  "Fortunately, he did not seem to resist the arrest.  It was as if he knew the consequences of his action.  So. perhaps he will not hold that against me."

As for having an advocate to meet with Pembroke, Charles decided that, perhaps, he was worrying too much.  "Perhaps you are correct.  Being a soldier, I like to be prepared for surprise attacks and plans gone awry."  There were many things that could go wrong, contingencies that he could not reveal. 

He was happy to be distracted by the animal event, which was about to start.  "Yes, let us get good seats," he replied, readying some coins to gain admittance.    As they entered, Charles produced his handkerchief for Lady Pembroke to sit upon and offered his coat for Susan if she so wished.  

 

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John and Anne Elizabeth

His own grin in return would let her know that the had indeed took her meanings.

"I think Life will indeed be interesting in your shadow Madam no matter what activity."

She made no response to his uttered hope and this caused him to take a moments pause - he had indeed done a thing he always made sure too NEVER engage in and that was wondering what his lover's did when not with him.

Experience had taught him early on that it served no purpose and made things messy and oft times soured any further enjoyments. Backing off was the direction to take. And he had no claim just as she had none. Yet it still bothered that she was so free with her thoughts and favors. She was unlike any female he had ever encountered from Lady to whore and while this was a titillation he could and did appreciate he looked still for those qualities that in his mind she should possess. And it was not like she was to be his wife after all. She was made for enjoyment and so he would provide it and use her in the same way. Affection was a thing easy to give after all and he was well versed in its applications.

He too heard the crier and downed what remained of his wine.

"Since that is your wish then let us go."

He tossed some pennies on the tabletop as they stood and made ready to leave.

"Shall you be afraid to sit front row? Perhaps t'would be better a few rows back to start and if we return then we know what will be offered up for viewing."

It was a reasonable request.

He after all had a healthy respect for beasts bigger and taller than him and if by chance a chain or rope broke and said creature made free he might not be able to protect them.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Charles, Susan, and Lady Pembroke

 

In Susan’s opinion, acting without thinking first was what often got Philip in trouble. He was smart enough to know that he had to face the repercussions of his rash behavior, though of course, he didn’t like it. In the situation that Charles described, he seemed to have accepted it. He had been sent to the Tower so often that she wouldn’t be surprised if there was a room there reserved for his use alone. It was almost like his second home.

 

“It is possible that he saw you as just a Life Guard doing his job and didn’t blame you personally. He might not even remember that it was you.” At least that was what she hoped. Now that she was aware of the incident, she could anticipate any trouble it might cause and figure out how to counteract it.

 

They were already close to the arena, which was not very far from the large tent, so they were able to get decent … though not very clean … seats. Ever chivalrous, Charles lay his handkerchief on the bench for her mother to sit on, and offered her his coat. Susan accepted graciously, for it was a sweet gesture and showed how attentive he was to her, but she hoped it didn’t get too dirty. Lady Pembroke's smile told her that she approved.

 

Though no wild animals had yet appeared, anticipation filled the air.   People spoke quietly with each other, and Susan lowered her voice as well.  “Like I said before he might test you to prove your worthiness. Maybe he will tell you that he will allow you to marry me but won’t give me a dowry. Or he might say a childhood illness made me barren and I will not be able to give you heirs, which I assure you is not true.” Susan smiled confidently. “But you are very clever and I am sure that you can easily outwit him and win him over.”

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The Toledos

 

As soon as her feet hit the ground, Sophia stretched, lifting her arms to the sky and arching her back. She thought that Esteban was being overly cautious about not wanting to sit in the front row. In order to stay in business, the carnival couldn’t risk any accidents and she was certain that the benches were far enough away from the animals to be completely safe. It was best to keep that opinion to herself, as she didn’t want to start yet another quarrel between them. She was hoping that this excursion would bring them closer together instead.

 

Sophia wasn’t the only one who noticed the way people looked at the Spaniards. She suspected that their curiosity had more to do with their entourage than the nationality of her husband and the servants who attended them. “Everyone but me,” she replied in the same language. “I look like an Englishwoman.” At least until she spoke in English. Then they would know that she was a foreigner, for she still had a moderate German accent.

 

“Are there carnivals in Spain?” she asked him. Her gaze wandered around the area, taking notice of everything and everyone around her. Her eyes widened slightly when she realized that there could be somebody here who could help with her contingency plan if her child turned out to be Henry’s instead of Juan’s. She wished she could do something to solve the problem herself instead of waiting for Henry and Anna to do it for her. Sophia had heard from neither and she worried more every day.

 

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John and Anne-Elisabeth

 

“I do not believe that you are the kind of gentleman who would be content in anybody’s shadow, even my own.” To Anne-Elisabeth, temerity was an attractive trait, and like herself, John seemed to have it in spades.

 

She took one last bite of bread and cheese, washing it down with the remainder of her wine. As the left the makeshift tavern, she grinned. “I’m not afraid of anything, but you’re right. Let’s not sit in the front row this time, as we don’t know what is going to happen.” The young Countess shuddered. “If the animals come close enough,we might get hit with their spit … or worse.”

 

As they were dressed as commoners, nobody stared at John and Anne-Elisabeth. By the time they arrived, the seats were filling up, but they were able to find a good spot. “Do you have trouble with wild animals in the Colonies?” she asked.

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The Toledos

The couple continued to get looks from those in the tent.  "They likely think I stole you," he chuckled softly, attempting some humor to calm her.  "It is a shame that Maria was ill.  She would have loved to come with us today."  His sister had not been feeling well of late and seemed to be despondent.  She had mostly stayed in her room during the week, eating little.

"Of course we have shows and troupes come through Spain," Esteban replied.  "There are elephants, lions, and strange looking deer and striped horses," he offered as if recalling his youth.

As for the babe, it must have felt its mother's fear, for it started moving as if it wanted out.  The Earl of Arundel was nowhere in sight.  Was he in London, as he said he would? 

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Charles and the Herberts

"You could be right," Charles admitted as she speculated that Philip might not hold the arrest against him.  He hoped she was correct.

The ladies seemed pleased with the gallantry of his actions, but it was what any gentleman should do.  Things seemed to be going well as the act was about to begin.  As his eyes scanned the audience, he saw Sophia with the Count of Toledo and offered her a smile since they were friendly.

Susan then, in a low voice warned that Pembroke could test Charles.  He thought that odd and whispered back.  "Why would he want to diminish your worth?  It would reflect on his honor.  It should be his goal to say that you are a lady that every lord would want as wife, that the dowry was grand, and that I should prove to him that I was worthy of your hand perhaps."  He expected something like that, though he did harbor a fear that Pembroke might say he need not provide much dowry because she was so eligible.

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John and Anne Elizabeth

"I prefer the Sun to shine only on me. You are correct in your assessment."

"I stand in no mans shadow."

He was patient while she finished then they moved off she adding her agreement to his cautions.

Entering they both might note some familiar faces seated about and John led them to a section that was more middle and thus a better spot if defense was needed. He doubted that anything would happen for he had observed that most of the animals wore heavy chains around at least one leg or around necks. And that whips were very much in evidence by those he took to be handlers. He led her to a place on the inside and exchanged some pleasantries with those seated close enough to do so. Once seated he reached down to half pull out the dagger hidden inside his boot so it would be at the ready. He wondered if she carried a blade - he would ask and if she did not he would take her to get one. Blades needed to be fitted to the person and she was slight enough that anything too heavy would be useless. The hilt must also sit well in her palm and be easy to grasp.

"Do not worry. I do not think that any animal will break free. If you look you can see they are well guarded."

To her question he replied

"Naturally we have such." 

"Bears, Moose and Elk, Big Cats with half tails , foxes .... All manner of creatures found in forests."

"Some unknown to you I'd imagine."

"In deep Winter when food is buried many larger animals will come closer to our plantations and forts - hunger drives them regardless of their own safety."

"I have seen animals fight each other over scraps of a dead animal and we go armed all the times when outdoors."

"There are perils in every Season and one must always be cautious."

"Just as you must be but in different ways. Your dangers would come from the Seas I would think. And those that sail upon it."

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Charles, Susan, and Lady Pembroke

 

Susan had heard herself described as one of the most sought-after ladies at court.  She wasn’t certain how true that was, as she was eighteen and still unwed. There had been offers of marriage in the past, but she had not liked any of her suitors and had been glad that they had not been allowed to court her. Philip had probably run them off. She certainly didn’t want that to happen to Charles, whom she wanted to marry with all her heart.

 

“That would be the expected response,” she said to his theory, “but Philip is rarely predictable. He has always been protective of me and probably doesn’t want me to marry a gentleman who cares only for my money or my ability to give him heirs from a prestigious bloodline and otherwise neglects me. That’s why I mentioned those two possibilities.”

 

She sighed. “You need to be ready for whatever he throws at you. He only wants the best for me. You are the best for me, and you need to convince him of that. I will do the same when I see him again. He is sure to ask me about you after my lady mother tells him that you wish to marry me.”

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The Toledos

 

Sophia’s eyes widened. Had Esteban just made a joke? Was there a sense of humor lurking beneath his serious demeanor? Oh, how she hoped it was so. “And that is why there are so many guards with us,” she teased back, still in Spanish. “So that my family doesn’t try to steal me back. As I am not trying to escape, perhaps everyone thinks I fell in love with you after you kidnapped me.”

 

Her smile faded when he mentioned Maria. She and her sister-in-law had become friends and she was worried about her. They usually went back to Spain during recess but Sophia had been too pregnant to travel during the last one. The baby would probably not be old enough to make the trip for at least a year. Maybe Maria missed her home and her family.

 

Sophia saw that Lord Langdon and his ladies had decided to watch the show as well. She pretended not to notice when he smiled at her. How dare he, after the callous way he had treated Darlene! Did he not know that they were close friends?

 

“There are some in Germany as well. They mostly perform in cities, not in small towns like the one around our estate. My lord father took me to a few of them. The carnivals were exciting, and it was also fun to stay in an inn and explore new places. And it was the only time I had my father all to myself. The carnivals were bigger and better in Venice, though the celebration they call Carnival does not include wild animals unless they are somebody’s pets.”

 

As her mind moved to less cheerful contemplation, the baby began to pummel her vigorously. “Ouch!” she exclaimed, One hand instinctively pressed against her belly trying to calm the child. It felt like it was trying to get out, but it was going the wrong way.

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The Toledos

Esteban showed a brief smile.  "Si, no one is kidnapping you away again."  Behind the brief humor lurked the fear of the Count.  Don Juan had many enemies and the fact that Sophia was his mistress was starting to leak out in Madrid.  One could threaten the Duc by threatening his mistress.  Worse, Don Juan had no children, causing distant relatives to wish that no living child would ever live to take the inheritance.   It was for this reason that it was important for the world to think that Esteban was the father.  "Are you not trying to escape each day?"

Maria was obviously unhappy.  Esteban had little time for her while Sophia was living such a happy life, and soon to be a mother.  Maria had nothing.  She lived on the charity of her brother, had no friends, was unable to speak, and was too homely to ever attract male interest.  Such a situation could lead to despair in anyone.

The talk of German circuses was met with a nod of understanding.  All adults remember the first time they attended a circus.

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Charles, Susan and Lady Pembroke

Charles, Susan, and Lady Pembroke

 

"All men are interested in your prestigious bloodline and money," Charles agreed lightly.  After all, that was the most important combination in a match.  "But," he whispered close to her ear, "I happen to be attracted to you for three other reasons.  But, I shall not say them because you know them."  It was partial flattery and partial tease.  He very much enjoyed teasing ladies he liked.  People had told him that ladies were as curious as cats.  If true, it might drive her crazy to want to know.  

"I shall be ready," he claimed as Susan urged him to take care.  "You must have low standards if you think I am best for you," he teased in humility.  Perhaps it was a warning best unsaid.

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All

 

A group of musicians walked through the entrance at the other side of the arena, set up their instruments, and began to play an exotic tune that was heavy on the drums. Over the music, trumpeting could be heard and soon four elephants entered in a line, stepping in time to the drums.  Each one was led by a young man wearing a red, black and gold tunic, loose breeches, and a matching turban on his head. There was an elaborate jeweled saddle on the back of every elephant in which sat a young woman dressed in a sparkling saree and glittering jewelry in the same colors.

 

A collective gasp passed through the audience. Somewhere in the crowd, a child started screaming and was quickly hushed.

 

When they reached the center of the arena, the majestic creatures spread out in a line. The music abruptly stopped and they bent down slightly and lowered their huge heads in what looked like a bow.

 

The onlookers burst into applause.

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John and Anne-Elisabeth

 

“Nor do I, so I hope there is enough sun for both of us.” It was fortunate that they were speaking figuratively, because sun was rare in England, at least compared with Barbados. Anne-Elisabeth wondered if it was sunny in the colonies but decided to save that question for another time.

 

As they took their seats, she noticed that John had pulled a knife from his boot. “Are you expecting trouble during the show?” she asked. It was possible that some enterprising thief might try to rob them but she doubted that anyone would attempt to kill them.

 

The Colonies had quite a few dangerous animals. Anne-Elisabeth had viewed drawings of some of those that John mentioned in books, but had only seen foxes and bears in reality. Foxes were common in England and there were usually a few bears at carnivals.

 

“Yes, most of our dangerous creatures live in the sea. There are some that can kill you with just a sting and others make you really sick. I was stung by one of the latter as a child, but as soon as I recovered, I was back to swimming in the ocean. As you have surmised, our biggest threat is pirates. They are a constant menace. It’s as if they believe that the Caribbean belongs to them.”

 

The sound of drums alerted her to the fact that the show was about to begin and it wasn’t long before a group of elephants marched into the center of the arena. “They’re a lot bigger than they look in pictures,” she breathed. “Have you ever seen one before?”

 

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The Toledos

 

Again? Nobody has kidnapped me yet. Had somebody tried and been stopped by Esteban’s Spanish guards? Sophia assumed that anybody who tried to abduct her would be Spanish. Or maybe Portuguese. Or French. They could weaken Juan by holding his mistress captive. Yet their relationship was a carefully-guarded secret. Maybe he had been referring to those Italians who had attempted to kidnap her last year. Yes. That must be it.

 

An idea popped into her mind. What if she could fake her own kidnapping with Henry’s help? He could be the hero and rescue her a shortly after her child was born and they had successfully switched babies. They would still need a midwife but she would not be in danger of being discovered.   Anna could be abducted with her and witness the birth so there would be no doubt that the baby was hers.   Sophia hoped that both of them returned soon so she could discuss it with them.

 

Her husband’s asinine question brought her thoughts back to the present. “I am no longer a child and will soon be a mother,” she sighed. “I don’t know why you can’t see that I have matured. Eluding my bodyguard will only put myself, and especially our baby, in danger. I would never risk this precious life growing inside me.”

 

The baby struck her again when the music started, seemingly as startled as its mother. “There’s your wild animals,” Sophia exclaimed as the elephants arrived. Her eyes shone with excitement and she clapped her hands together like the child she had just claimed she wasn’t. “Oh look! They’re bowing!”

 

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Charles, Susan, and Lady Pembroke

 

Susan knew Charles well enough to realize that he was teasing her, so she did not take his bait, no matter how curious she was about the reasons he was attracted to her. “Only three?” She laughed. “I can think of at least twelve.” In truth, she had pulled that number out of the air, and was only teasing him back.

 

“He won’t be easy to deal with,” she warned, ‘nor easy to have as a brother-in-law, though we probably won’t see him much since he’s banished from court or in the Tower much of the time.”

 

Susan smiled when Charles said she had low standards. “You might have made some mistakes in the past, but I see your potential,” she replied playfully.

 

The arrival of the musicians announced that the show was about to began. She gasped along with others in the audience when the elephants entered the arena.  Almost immediately, a child began to scream. “I think they are magnificent,” she replied, “but I can see why children would be frightened of them.”

 

If Charles looked in the direction of the wailing, he would see that it came from a very large family sitting a fair distance away. Most of them had curly brown hair. Among them was Samantha Gillis, looking rather awkward with a little girl of about three sitting in her lap. Her sister Alice, whom he had met the day before, gazed straight at him and frowned.

 

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John and Anne Elizabeth

She noted his movement in regards to his knife and in whispered words said

"No. But I am used to being prepared and as we are with these wild creatures .... no matter how well chained they maybe  .... I need to have a blade quick at hand."

"Have you a such a thing?"

"If not then I will take you and one shall be made for you. A proper one the fits your size and the grip of your hand."

"And this WILL be a thing completed. This is a rough place - meaning London and even here I suppose to a degree - and I want not a hair of yours to be harmed."

He reached out to gently brush back some escaped tendrils.

It was so crowded and full of noise he doubted that anyone paid them a mind.

Drums sounded and then the huge beasts he had seen on the open road appeared with ladies atop and so the 'act' began.

The sudden cries of what he presumed to be child gave him no pause for it was to be expected after all as most had never seen such beasts.

"Never!" 

Said in response to her question.

"They are magnificent are they not! Why one blow from a foot would kill you I'd think!"

"And to think Hannibal crossed the Alps on such  ....."

"I wonder what they will do next  ..."

He was as excited as a schoolboy and not ashamed for her to see it.

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The Toledos

Sophia pretended that she no longer sought to escape, but Esteban thought otherwise.  In fact, his wife seemed deep in thought about something, likely how to evade her guard, he imagined.  He did not reply to her protest, grateful for the interruption by the elephants.

"I think they are bowing at you," Esteban tried to flatter with a soft smile.   As he looked away, Sophia would see Henry Howard, Earl of Arundel duck into the tent.  He moved in full view of Sophia and then took a seat in the back of the tent.  His tricorn hat was at a slight angle, and he wore a heavy dark woolen coat.

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