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The Toledos

The cart was summoned and it arrived promptly.  Sophia was assisted into the cart by her husband and a soldier while another soldier looked about the grounds for sign of danger. Sophia looked about for Henry.  Another set of disguised eyes watched the seekers.

Henry was missing, but the older woman in a blue shawl that he had stood beside was still in the same spot and looking towards Sophia with interest.  Perhaps she wished to speak to her, or perhaps Henry had told her something of Sophia.

A shrewd eye might she a folded paper in the woman's hand and then the cart was back in the common area.  They had missed the elephants and ostriches it seemed.

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Davina, Henry and George

"You both pity them and wish you were they," Henry observed.

"Freedom sounds nice," George stated at last.

"It is not freedom, but what you do with it," insisted Henry.  "Without purpose and duty, you are no different than an animal," Henry added with more sincerity than the event suggested.  He stopped to watch the act.

"Duty is nothing more than a gilded cage," George noted in empathy with Davina.

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Charles and the Pembrokes

"I suppose I will need to see you more often to stay reminded," Charles replied back lightly to her tease.  "Maybe you could give me a small portrait of you for Christmas.  Perhaps it will remind me when I am away from your company," he flattered. "As do my dreams," he added hastily with a chuckle.  He knew he did not need to woo her overmuch, so he could remain good-natured.

The ostriches fascinated him as they ran in.  "Do you think they could hold my weight?"  He was imagining a saddle on them.  "More likely for children," he surmised.

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Davina Henry and George

"Never!" Said back to Henry.  "You think I would be as they?"

"My saying such about 'seeing' things does not mean I wish to have a Life like them."

"And yes you are right Henry. Freedom allows one to have all the possibilities. A Purpose."

"I am indeed envious of all the 'freedoms' allowed to those of your sex and I think I will always be."

"Yet I know what is expected of me and I can not take leave and set on a voyage of discovery even if I wanted to."

"Ah but that gilded cage has given you much has it not George? And you know full well that Duty is bred into you just as much as us."

"Yet I grow weary at times as both of you must. Much is expected after all  ......."

"Duty requires that we marry. Duty requires that we seek to further Family Ambitions. Duty requires much does it not."

"But for now I shall put that word aside and seek out some pleasures!"

Where shall we go next after here? Shall we seek out something to drink perhaps?"

She made the assumption they were a trio despite the rocky start.

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Cadell, likewise lurking, then inquiring of Davina and Company

Beasts of all kinds had long fascinated the Viscount Athenry – as a lonely boy in rural Wales with no great fondness (and little ability) for roughhousing, he had been an amateur scholar by age 6, with only books and sisters for friends. Had he a better leg at the lad’s age, he might have been the boy-thief, scampering towards the elephants, gawking at the ostriches. Instead, then as now, his nose was ever in texts and head ever in the clouds, daydreaming about Araby and the Orient, of Marco Polo and Magellan.

Cadell was older now, of course, and of much greater stature than that of the spare to a Welsh baronet’s heir, and though he knew himself to not be an adventurer, the daydreams remained. So much so that, dressed in what he thought to be a most splendid pastel blue coat, waistcoat, and tan breeches – the former two with woven vines done in a (fitting to his internal monologue) style a la turque and lined with gold-colored, metallic appliqués, he had not paid overmuch attention to his wanderings, thinking instead of what it would be like to travel to Constantinople or Tangier. France had given him a taste for such things…

And others, such as the contents of a flask he had mislaid somewhere while choosing an outfit. He was not so selfish as to send his main footman, the ever-loyal Duncan, after it, though he knew such an event would not have as fine of a cognac as he had brought from his Chelsea home. Her Chelsea home, the scholarly Catholic reminded himself. I am more of a guest than a husband.

Such facts, or at least the avoidance thereof, were what had compelled him to don his best cloak and boots (although Athenry certainly preferred the red-heeled court shoes that were de rigeur at Versailles) and part from his quarters with Louise – between the pair of them, responsible for perhaps half of Windsor’s total brooding – and to the carnival. He had been without a drink for too long, however, and his bad leg had begun to ache as much as his thoughts. Thinking to abandon the carnival for somewhere like The White, he rose from his vantage point, nearly passing a two gentlemen with familiar faces but not names and a lady he knew he had once been introduced to but whose name escaped him (Wesley? Wellstone?), only to overhear a relevant inquiry.

”Where shall we go next after here? Shall we seek out something to drink perhaps?"

He put on his best breezy courtier’s smile, an affectation he owned to young John Ashburnham and his time at Versailles, halting in his tracks. “Pray forgive the intrusion,” Athenry asked politely, accent betraying only a hint of Wales, bowing to the trio cursorily, cool grey eyes ascertaining how welcome he was. “But I heard a mention of drink. Have you any idea where one might be found? I would prefer not to disturb my lady wife by sending my manservant after my preferred poison.”

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John and Anne-Elisabeth

 

“I’ll leave it to you. You know much more about weapons than I do.”

 

Anne-Elisabeth laughed at John’s comment. “No matter how busy I am, I will always have time for you.” Some of his other remarks had been similar and they had started after she had mentioned Lord Grey and his astronomy demonstration. She doubted he was jealous. There was no reason to be. He was probably just teasing her. “And I hope you will always have time for me,” she added with a smile.

 

Although curious about the description he had received, she decided that she would rather be surprised. If she knew what to expect, she might overlook something that needed fixing. She was definitely no expert, but she’d had a lot of fun renovating and redecorating her house in London. “Do you plan on living there during recess or will you continue to return to the Colonies?”

 

Anne-Elisabeth laughed again, and struggled playfully when John pulled her closer. Soon they were seated again and watching the ostriches. “They’re made for it,” she said about laying huge eggs. “I doubt they suffer any more than a chicken. I wish we could see a baby ostrich. I haven’t even seen one in a book.”

 

Anne-Elisabeth shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe they’ll have some animals we’ve never even heard of before.”

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The Toledos, with Sophia noticing Chatham

 

Settled comfortably in the cart, Sophia’s eyes casually scanned the crowd. Performers were everywhere and she asked Esteban to stop several times so that she could watch. A magician pulled a bouquet of flowers out of his hat and handed it to her. As she lifted it to her nose to enjoy its fragrant scent, she felt the strange sensation of being observed from afar.

 

Was somebody watching them? Had Esteban hired another spy to analyze her every move? That notion seemed a bit far-fetched. Maybe he had heard of a threat to the Spanish contingent. Or the observer was the threat. Maybe Esteban was the target of his scrutiny instead of her.  Sophia shivered. A carnival was a perfect place for an assassination attempt.

 

The feeling persisted as they neared the arena. Though she hoped to catch a glimpse of Henry, she was careful not to let her gaze linger on any particular person. The woman he had stood next to was still there and looking directly at her. Was that a piece of paper in her hand? A note from Henry perhaps? She met her eyes for an instant and tilted her head in a slight beckoning gesture. Then Sophia quickly glanced away, her gaze wandering over random faces in the crowd.

 

And there was her Eros! Still feeling that she was being watched, her eyes did not light up … but her heart did. If Henry thought it would look too suspicious if he rescued her for her kidnappers, maybe Charles would like to be the hero instead.  But today, it was better not to speak to him while under observation from an unknown entity. As the cart passed him, Sophia lifted one finger to her cheek, as if to brush back a stray curl from her face.

 

“I think I’ll sit in the cart for the rest of the show,” she told her husband. They would have to park next to the benches, which would give the mysterious woman an opportunity to approach her if that was her intention.

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Charles, Susan, and Lady Pembroke

 

“If we’re betrothed by then, I can give you one. And perhaps you can give me a portrait of you.” Susan didn’t need anything to remember him by, but if she told him so, it might go to his head. She would love to have a locket with his portrait in it that she could wear around her neck.

 

“Until then, we can see each other at the upcoming events.” She doubted that her mother woulld let her go too many places with Charles, but they could dance at the masquerade and converse at the christening. In fact … “Have you decided on a costume for the masquerade?”

 

Susan laughed. If he had the chance, she believed that Charles would ride every animal in the carnival that was large enough. “You’re probably right.” The acrobats who chased them were all quite slender and not very tall. “Even if you tried, they would probably throw you. Then you might be called ‘Lofted Langdon.’”

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All

 

As the lively tune came to an end, the performers caught the ostriches, threw ropes around their necks and led them out of the arena. There was a brief moment of silence and then the drums began a steady beat, followed by other instruments playing a sedate and regal piece. Into the arena strode two lions and two tigers with their trainers. Assistants carried various props. The male lion surveyed the audience and roared, sending yet more gasps through the crowd.

 

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Davina and Her Admirers

Davina Wellsley was a emerging feminist, just 300 years early.  One day, a descendant of hers would taste the freedom that she so richly desired for herself.  Yet, as the sister to the viscount knew, she had very few choices for future happiness, most of them relying on the kindness of a male admirer or husband.  What path she would take was known only to her and, perhaps, the fortune teller.

"You sound so morose," George remarked.  He was one that sought fun and avoided sadness.  Henry made no such comment, understanding the seriousness of the situation.

As the trio thought to leave, the circus unveiled lions and tigers.  "By the saints," Henry exclaimed.  "This carnival must have cost a fortune.  Even the Crown has no equivalent."  How could one not be impressed?  "Perhaps you would like to pet the cats?" Henry offered in jest.  "Cats have an uncanny affinity with women."  He was jesting of course.  "Do you have a house cat?" he wondered aloud.

 

The Toledos

Perhaps it was just paranoia that made Sophia feel that she was being watched by multiple persons.  She was a renown beauty, vocalist and foreigner.  Who would not wish to watch her?

The woman in the blue shawl did not respond to the subtle beckons.  She did not seem concerned about approaching.  She just smiled at Sophia briefly.   Henry Howard was not anywhere to be seen, curiously.

Esteban stood beside the cart dutifully as two soldiers stood nearby.  Sophia would be able to see the lions and tigers enter.

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"Once I have a portrait of you, my next portrait will be beside you," he flattered.  "Promise to smile," he added in jest.

He already had a locket in his possession.  It contained the dark hair of Davina Wellsley and bore the the arms of the King.  She had a lock of his hair in a matching locket, with the arms of the Queen.  Obviously, he did not wear it daily anymore, but he kept it in a locked chest with Samantha's necklace, a golden dagger, and other personal items.

"I do not think I will be riding those," Charles laughed as he saw the lions and tigers.  "Your brother Philip will be sore he missed this act."

As for the masque, he replied "I do not know what costume to wear. I did buy some Venetian masks with feathers last year at a curio shop.  Perhaps you would like one as a gift?"  It was a clever way to guess her costume.  "What do you think of me attending the masque in a costume of a soldier?"  He was jesting again but wanted to see her reaction. 

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Davina and her Admirers Joined by Another

She gave no reply back to George and even if she wished to here was more entertainment that appeared.

And it was also at that moment that a voice she knew called out asking to join in with them.

She turned and saw a face she had not seen in a while.

"Lord Athenry ....."

She dropped a curtsey and it was at that moment that the Lions and Tigers came roaring out which startled her and she took hold of Henrys arm for a moment drawing away.

"Any cats that I may have are docile creatures and it is not funny."

She whispered back.

She soon took hold of herself and drew apart. She would allow the two meant to offer introductions on their own.

She would, naturally, do it if Henry or George did not know Lord Athenry.

Edited by Davina Wellsley
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John and Anne Elizabeth

"You can rest assured that whatever I chose will be right for you. And you must learn how to use it as well despite you having knowledge already."

Her assurances that she would have time for him pleased him and over the next few days would think up creative things that they might entertain.

About his Estate

"I can not be totally absent from Virginia. It is not feasible as there are things that only I can do."

"My brother-in-law has authorities of course but the Plantation and the running of it belong to me."

"I have investments here that I hope will be profitable and yet I find myself curious as to how things might be here if I were to remain."

"I will know more after seeing what I have inherited. I know many things and have some issues that I may need assistance."

"It would seem that those tenants that reside on my lands are somewhat reluctant to pay what is due and I have heard from others' that this is a problem growing."

"But all that can wait."

He slipped his hand around her waist teasingly close to that area of interest and smiled back at her.

"It will be Lions and Bears or Tigers - something too exotic would like as not survive the journey here on a ship."

"But I would like to see something from a far off land."

He paused and then took a look around asking

"See anyone that you know?"

"I saw a very pregnant Lady who I have heard is married to an Ambassador and a few other faces that seem familiar."

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Davina, Two Admirers and a Welshman

Henry and George had not been sure that they had been addressed by the man in the blue coat.  He seemed to be familiar with Davina and, as she spoke to him, they turned their attention to him.  He spoke of having a wife, so he was not interested in Davina as an admirer.

"Lord Athenry is it?" Henry asked as he stood.  "I am Henry Howard, son of the Viscount Stafford.  I am here to protect Miss Wellsley from this other gentleman ... George Churchill, in York's service."

George shook his head at being bested and lifted his hat in salute.  "If you have come here in search of good spirits, you were sorely misled.  There are girls about selling cider," he added.  

Henry added "you are welcome to join us as we may need to have one more gent between us and the tigers."  He grinned.

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Davina, Her Admirers, and a Welsh Wanderer

Only Mistress Wellsley (that was the name, Saint Augustine and the Blessed Virgin be praised) had any recognition of him. I was away for too long. But if Cadell Mortimer was ever to be deterred by an inner, abashed voice, he would have accomplished even less than he desired, and so he greeted the trio properly in turn. “Mistress Wellsley, it has been too long –.” Mass, he thought, was the last opportunity.”  “And as ever, the pleasure is all mine.”

He bowed deeply, and then looked over the lords, his crooked smile warm. “I am forgettable enough that it is no sin to not recall this, Sir George, but I believe we’ve met in His Highness’ company upon occasion.” Cadell had met York through the prince’s confessor, and on occasion – he still entertained the fantasy of serving the Duke of York, even unofficially. “I am no tiger, however, nor lion – pride is not my sin, and so I’ll make your acquaintance again.”

He grinned at this, much preferring to make the man’s acquaintance in truth away from an event or the House of Lords. “And it is always a pleasure to make the acquaintance of another of your family, Master Howard. Your cousin Thomas is a friend, and your sister a known intellect.” His tone was admirable, but polite – it did not do to praise a man’s sister overmuch – and he paused, before breaking out into an amiable chuckle. “Forgive me – I’m quite certain you three didn’t seek the litany of every mutual friend we share at court…” Though one cannot help but note our common ground…might we be allies? Friends?

“Ah, but! If you guard the lady from our friend, valiant Master Howard, he and I may be free to fend off the beasts.” The limping viscount shook his cane pseudo-threateningly. “Though cats I saw aplenty near the tent of that…fortune teller.” His lip curled slightly, frowning at any superstition. “Stalls with fare and drink more satiating than cider, too.”

The great cats were impressive, on the other hand. “Being on tiger duty, I will defer to majority opinion and focus instead of my charge.” This was pronounced with a decided tone of jest, though he admitted to mostly be wandering in search of entertainment, “I am fortunate for the opportunity. My search was not for drink, but more vague.”

Edited by Cadell Mortimer
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The Toledos

 

Whether real or imaginary. Sophia still felt as if she … or perhaps Esteban … was being stared at even in the arena. The distant gaze seemed malevolent to her instead of curious or admiring. She was becoming more anxious as her pregnancy progressed, perhaps due to hormones, a mother’s protective instincts, or just plain paranoia.

 

The older woman smiled at her but did not approach. Unable to do anything but sit in the cart, she felt helpless and trapped, completely dependent on Henry and Anna (when she returned) to put their plan into play. She really needed to speak with Henry, and soon, so they could brainstorm her new idea. Maybe he would like it, or point out to her that there was no way it could work.

 

Her worries were eclipsed by excitement when lions and tigers walked into the ring. Sophia adored felines and this was the first time she had seen big cats in the flesh. How very splendid they were! “I’m glad we didn’t miss this part,” she whispered to Esteban.

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John and Anne-Elisabeth, who waves at Davina

 

Anne-Elisabeth said nothing more about knives. When they returned to London and John found the right blacksmith or armorer to make one for her, she would gladly accompany him to the shop. It didn’t matter what the knife looked like, as it would remain hidden unless she needed to use it. She was also looking forward to being taught how to improve her skills, which were meager at best.

 

“Tenants are always reluctant to pay when their master is not around. They don’t know you yet, but treat them well and they should be loyal. They might also have problems that need fixing on the land they lease from you.”

 

She sighed. “I admire your bravery traveling back and forth so often. I tell myself that I haven’t gone back to Barbados because there is no reason to return now that my entire family is gone and the plantation I grew up on belongs to somebody else. But I think it has more to do with avoiding another journey by sea considering how the first one turned out. Despite that fear, I wouldn’t mind seeing Virginia someday."

 

Anne-Elisabeth leaned against him when he put an arm around her waist.“I’m also looking for investment opportunities in London, but doors that are open to men are closed to women. Perhaps you can help me with that too?”

 

When John asked if she saw anyone she knew, she looked around while the ostriches were led out of the arena. Noticing Davina, she waved. “My friend Mistress Wellsley is here. I’m not surprised that she is surrounded by gentlemen.”

 

Lions and tigers entered the area with their trainers. “Well, you were right. There will probably be bears next.”

 

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Charles, Susan, and Lady Pembroke

 

Susan imagined that she would be grinning from ear to ear in their wedding portrait. And hopefully, so would Charles. “Why shouldn’t I?” she asked, her blue eyes twinkling impishly. She still worried that he might insist that his mistress marry her brother, but then there would be no wedding at all and Philip would probably beat him more viciously than he’d beaten Dorset.

 

She was surprised that Charles didn’t want to ride a big cat. “He already has a lion in his menagerie,” she said of her brother. “I’m glad he’s not here. He would probably try to teach it some tricks after seeing what these can do.”

 

Venetian masks were usually stunning. “I’ve already chosen my costume,” she said, “but I would love to see your masks. We can wear them to a ball together after we’re wed.”

 

Charles wore his uniform most of the time. Though it suited him well, Susan though it would be nice to see him in something else. “Only if you’re on duty,” she replied, aware that he was teasing her again. Her voice lowered. “We should tell each other what we’re going to wear so we will recognize each other and can spend some time together while nobody else knows who we are.”

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All

 

Like the elephants, the great cats formed a line and strode around the edge of the arena with their trainers so that everyone in the crowd could get a good look at them. Taking turns, they roared to a certain beat of the drums. When they reached the center, they began to perform various tricks, such leaping and climbing over objects that had been placed around the area. One leapt onto a tall platform and a tiger and the lioness jumped through hoops in opposite directions. They interacted with their trainers as well, providing mesmerizing and sometimes comical entertainment for the watching crowd.

 

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Chatham, still lurking...

The big cats were impressive enough, Charles thought, though the lions were not quite so large as the Barbary lions he had known in Tangiers. Very well trained, however, he would concede, which was highly impressive.

Still, Charles had always and would always consider people to be vastly more interesting than animals, however well trained, and it was not long before he let his gaze pan idly across the crowd. Langdon had somehow managed to corner Susan Herbert and her mother, he saw, which was mystifying, and little George Churchill (no longer anything like 'little' and was not that always a shock to realise?) seemed to be paying court to Mistress Wellsley along with two other men he did not know. He wished them luck. Davina had an indefinable 'je ne sais quoi' that Charles had always appreciated.

He blinked in slight surprise as he caught sight of Sophia in her cart. It made sense — she was immensely pregnant — but it still struck him as slightly farcical, a countess and wife of the Spanish ambassador being carted around in a wheelbarrow. He did not let his eye linger, his hand coming up to adjust his cravat as his gaze swept on.

...and going to see the Fortune-Teller

He straightened up, seized by a sudden flood of energy. He would go to have his fortune told, Charles decided. The old woman (it was always an old woman) would serve up some vague, ridiculous drivel, and he would have a good laugh about it afterwards. It would be cheering.

He nodded decisively to himself, and strode off to join the queue for the fortune-teller's tent.

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Chatham going to the fortune teller

 

As Charles approached the blue tent painted with sparkling stars, several cats came to greet him. These were ordinary alley cats, and not as impressive as the lions and tigers in the arena. There were a couple dozen of them, some playing, some sleeping, some just walking around like they owned the place. As most of the carnival’s guests were watching the wild animal show, only two little old ladies were waiting in line.

 

A man came out of the tent. His expression was neutral so it was impossible to tell whether or not he was pleased with the fortune-teller’s predictions. The two old women handed their fees to the girl sitting behind the table, upon which was yet another feline. They went in together and about ten minutes later, they emerged with wide smiles on their faces.

 

By that time, three more commoners had joined the queue. They stared at Charles curiously, as if they had never seen a noble before. The young woman at the table smiled at him as she held out her hand for the fee. “I wish you good fortune, my lord,” she said.

 

 

(OOC:  The fortune teller has her own thread.  When Charles is ready to go into the tent, please post here:

 

 

 

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The Toledos

The older woman moved out of sight.  It was obvious that she would not approach under current circumstances.

Sophia's angst was not sitting well with the baby, but the joy of the big cat performances managed to calm things.  There would be no way that Henry would approach her under these circumstances.  Surely he had a plan to contact her that would not raise suspicion, but what?

"Si, this is the best part," Esteban acknowledged.  "They save such acts for late in the show." 

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Charles and the Herbert Ladies

She had picked out a costume and he had only thought to wear a color than none would suspect.  "I shall be on duty," he whispered, "though in costume, my duty is to find you and whisper swan to let you know I have found you.  And you shall know my name."  In that he looked directly at the lion.  "Whoever wins shall receive a kiss from the other," he laughed knowing that both would win in such circumstance.

The next few minutes passed as he marveled the performance unfolding before them ... .

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John and Anne Elizabeth

"I think it is a problem going on long before me if I am reading all the letters correct".

"There are Troubles across many Counties so I have been learning and while you may be correct in some way I fear tis more out of Greed than lack of anything."

"But that is for another day."

"I am not at all used to these sea voyages. Not at all."

"I suffer no sea-sickness but not being on Land bothers me for there I have control out at Sea  ....."

"Aye I would be Proud to have you there and show you off on my arm!"

He looked at her with a bit of speculation in his gaze. Was she all talk he wondered? And the thought that he had himself created but dismissed as foolishness crept in again.

Her warmth against him was pleasant and he would hold it for as long as he could given where they were.

"Perhaps, if you are interested, I shall tell you of what I do. A way for you to benefit as I do."

"Although you can not use your real identity - for no sea-faring man will ever accept a woman and her 'ideas'."

"But that is no issue. Between the two of us we can well invent another identity that none will question."

"Interested?"

He dangled a carrot knowing that she would bite.

It was then that she waved and he followed her sight seeing a dark-haired young woman with several Gentlemen about her.

"I do not know that name or face I am afraid. But she is indeed worth many a look. Do you know who the men are?"

"Might they be helpful to me?"

He was ever ready for those that might help him.

It was then that another show began and their interest went there.

Edited by John Palliser
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Davina, Her Admirers, and a Welsh Wanderer

Davina took the time of introductions to study him discreetly.

It had been a long time so it seems to her since last meeting at Mass and so much had happened.

He looked well and very Polished. Perhaps marriage agreed with him.

It would seem that George already had his acquaintance and the exchange was cordial between he and Henry. 

A small sigh escaped unnoticed.

"Indeed that would be far too cumbersome to list such and so we shall agree to not do so!"

She smiled at them and then asked

"You travel without your Lady then or has she taken herself off  ...."

"His wife is the Duchess of Portsmouth  ..."

She added for the other two.

"Your Company is most welcome Sir and once the Show has concluded then please to join us searching for such libations."

"Or whatever else may strike a fancy."

She did not expect Henry or George to refuse and they were free to take leave anytime.

"I would advise against that fortune teller for there is no end of bad advice there."

She spared a glance to George.

 

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Chatham queuing outside the fortune teller's

Charles tolerated the attentions of the cats with good grace. Sertorius aside, he did not as general rule like animals, but cats, with their independent and unscrupulous natures, were acceptable.

(It was perhaps deeply revelatory of his character that Charles preferred the mercenary, transactional affection of cats to the unconditional love and devotion of dogs.)

He nodded his head politely to the commoners joining the queue, hiding his faint amusement at their reactions to him. He would have thought, given the proximity of the castle and Eton, that they would be more used to the sight of aristocrats.

Perhaps they came from further afield for the carnival he mused.

Dismissing the thought, he approached the young woman collecting the entrance fees, answering her smile with a precisely calibrated one of his own, designed to be friendly, polite, and just flirtatious enough that a pretty young woman would not feel slighted, while not being so flirtatious as to imply any active interest on his part.

"I tend to find we make our own, but we shall see, hmm?" Charles said cheerily, handing over his fee, and then more besides.

"For those behind me," he explained. Openhandedness was an important virtue for a noble, and it was not as though this was a staggering display of largesse. He walked another coin across his knuckles and flicked it to her.

"And for you."

He inclined his head to the young woman, and entered the tent.

 

(Contd here.)

Edited by Charles Audley
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The Toledos

 

The baby kicked relentlessly until the big cats entered the arena. Sophia smiled. Maybe he or she loves cats as much as I do. She agreed with Esteban that this was probably one of the last acts. How could anything be more impressive than great felines jumping through hoops and leaping into the air? They were magnificent. If Henry approached her now, she probably wouldn’t notice even if he walked up and slapped her in the face. She was genuinely spellbound.

 

“Have you ever seen lions and tigers before?” she whispered to Esteban.

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John and Anne-Elisabeth

 

“If they don’t cooperate, toss those greedy tenants out on their arses and rent your land to people who will be grateful to you and gladly give you whatever you agree on. Sometimes you have to be tough or you’ll be taken advantage of.” Anne-Elisabeth didn’t see John as the kind of gentleman who let others run all over him, but even the most coldhearted individual could be taken in by a tragic sob story.

 

“I had no control over my own life when I made that journey. I had passed from my parents’ charge to my husband’s so that aspect did not bother me. I actually enjoyed the voyage … until the storm, of course. I hope you always sail on calm seas.”

 

She did not miss John’s considering look. Did he think she hoped that he would take her to Virginia as his wife? Probably not. They were too new to each other to even consider marriage and he didn’t seem any more ready to settle down than she was.

 

Anne-Elisabeth was surprised that he offered to help her with investments. She’d mentioned her interest to other gentlemen, but none of them had commented on it. “Of course I’m interested. I can even dress as a man. I’ve done it before, but I never made up an identity for my male disguise.” She hoped he wasn’t disgusted by the idea of cross-dressing.

 

Instead of being jealous, she was pleased that John thought Davina was pretty. “No, I don’t think I’ve met them. If I did, it must have not have been very memorable, because I’ve forgotten all about it. Sorry that I can’t be of more help.”

 

The big cats were a wonder to watch.

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Charles, Susan, and Lady Pembroke

 

Susan had not known that Charles could be so romantic. The game he proposed made her tremble with excitement and anticipation. “You’re on,” she grinned, also aware that even the loser would be a winner. Her mother already knew what her costume looked like, as she had accompanied her to the dressmaker to commission it. They would have to make sure she wasn’t watching to claim their kiss.

 

Though she was more of a dog person than a cat person, Susan enjoyed the big cat show. “Do you want to ride one of those too?” she asked Charles.

 

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The big cats were leaping from platform to platform in what looked like an intricate dance when another child ran into the arena. This little girl was a bit younger than the boy who had performed with the elephants and was dressed quite sumptuously. Thinking she was part of the act as well, nobody tried to stop her.  A few members of the audience even groaned at the carnival's lack of creativity.

 

A woman’s terrified scream pierced the air. The child froze and started wailing. One of tigers roared. His trainer had a difficult time restraining him as he tried to lunge at her. Was this really part of the show?

 

(OOC: If anybody attempts a rescue, please choose a number between 1 and 10 and add it to the end of your post.)

 

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