Author Topic: Attendance at the Kendal Ball - A short story, that has grown in the telling.  (Read 1893 times)

LordWorthing

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This story, which started as a series of short paragraphs I jotted down in 2016. It developed from a few characters two friends of mine from Canada and resident in Brazil (Laura and Doug) helped me create from them filling out a steampunk name generator and me using some aspects of their personalities plus ideas of my own. The short set of notes quickly developed a life of its own and the story has grown to some fourteen installments to date. I has allowed me to develop some of the background and characters in my Age of Steam, Steel and Iron background for which I am very thankful two both of them for their encouragement and humourous responses to the ongoing story.

In any event, this is the first snippet or part I ever posted on my blog, I trust people will find it of some interest or amusement. Comments and questions are welcomed.

Attendence at the Kendal Ball (Part I)
Schomberg Palace, London, Great Britain: January 1886

Sir Leo stood at his writing desk, going through the morning newspapers, in the study of the suite of rooms that were his in the palatial ducal family home in London. The whole family had been gathered for the Christmas season and the New Year, Mama, Stephen, Wilfred and Cecilia and himself of course. A knock sounded at the door.

"Come in." Sir Leo, said aloud, still reading through the London Times. Hm, another revolution in South America, possible war in Africa. As he sifted through the leading articles.

Hector Deerborn, one of the family's oldest and most stalwart servants (his own and Mama's opinion if no one else's) entered the room, the second butler of Schomberg Palace. White headed, his mass of long hair, drooping moustaches and long wide beard, always reminded Sir Leo of a haystack, that had just been ineffectually combed with a pitchfork! Stooped and possessed of a slow gait that could only be described as shuffling, the man was the personification of decrepitude. Deerborn had to be nearly seventy if he was a day, Sir Leo thought as he crossed the room.

"What is it, Deerborn?"

"A letter from the Lady Ursula Wraithdale, milord it came by the post not ten minutes ago." Deerborn answered with his usual fawningly unctuous manner, presenting the large envelope on a silver serving tray balanced ever so delicately in one of his white gloved hands.

"Hm."

The Wraithdales were an old family, quite as old as his own; part of the Old English land owning gentry, being squires and baronets as old as England. They had only entered the ranks of the truly aristocratic English Peerage a few generations back, when Lady Ursula's great-great-great-great grandfather had been made Baron Wraithdale by King George II. They had gradually since then climbed up the peerage due to diligence at the Court of St James and service in the Royal Navy and the British Army. In 1821, Vice-Admiral Sir Basil Wraithdale, Earl of Wraithdale had been created the Duke of Kendal for excellent military and diplomatic services rendered during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Their dukedom's country seat was Kendal Castle in Westmoreland, Sir Leo remembered absently.

Urusla's father, the 3rd 'Wraithdale' Duke of Kendal had died recently, Sir Leo recalled it had been in all the newspapers when he'd arrived back in England in the first week of December of '85. Ursula being his only living and legitimate heiress had inherited the titles, income, properties and lands that went with his estate. Fortunately Ursula's father had been a careful, methodical man and a brilliant financial manager so unlike a great many of his fellow dukes. He had left his only daughter a well ordered estate and negligible debts to deal with when he kicked the bucket. Her ducal exchequer was an astonishingly handsome one, running in the millions of pounds sterling.

Sir Leo turned the heavily embossed envelop over in his hands, it crinkled when he squeezed it and felt rather heavier then if it's contents were ordinary paper, parchment or heavier card, perhaps? Sir Leo picked up a pen knife from his writing desk and carefully prided off the ornate seals, one the Wraithdale coat-of-arms clear as print in the sealing wax, the other being the Kendal ducal coat-of-arms and removed the several sheets of high quality paper contained within. Lifting his mononcle on it's cord to his left eye he began to read the first one.

Dearest Leopold,

I am delighted to hear that you have returned to England none the worse for your adventures and experiences in West Africa. I must admit when I first read of your planned expedition I was filled with some... no, strike that... a great deal of foreboding; after all Africa is not a safe place with regards to ones' health, reputation or life as my family should well know. I should not have worried on your account, after all if you can survive some fourteen years of hard and gallant service in the name of Her Majesty the Queen across three continents, you can survive nearly anything.

I apologize that my own affairs in Brazil kept me from being in England until recently. Coffee plantations do not mind themselves you know. I am still very put out that this necessary attention to family business prevented my attending your presentations at the Court of Saint James, the Royal Geographical Society and the Athenaeum when you first arrived home after nearly a year's absence in Africa.

I shall want to hear all about it when I next see you. All my friends, acquaintances and relations are just agog about your accomplishments! Please give my fullest regards to your mama, brothers and dearest Cecilia.

I enclose an invitation to my upcoming ball on Friday, I know of your dislike and disinclination towards society affairs and above all anything that requires you to stay in London. Of our old friendship, I implore you to please accept just this once.

Yours Sincerely,

Ursula Wraithdale, Duchess of Kendal


Sir Leo let the monocle drop from his eye, back against his deep blue brocade vest. His free hand tapped the desk top with two fingers repeatedly -- once, twice, thrice suddenly he made a throw away gesture with his fingers before dropping them back to the polished desk top for a fouth and final time.

Damn and Blast.
An Age of Steam, Steel and Iron

It is the year 1889 A.D., an age of enlightened discovery, of unrivalled and often fantastic scientific and technological progress: powered by coal, steam and electricity. It is also an age of empires and empire building, of fierce and often complex competition for wealth and material resources by both governments, corporations and private individuals. The Nations of Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia vie for power, prestige and prosperity on the world stage and across the solar system.

Hez

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I eagerly await the next installment...

LordWorthing

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Attendance at the Kendal Ball (Part II)
Wraithdale House, Grosvenor Square, London, Great Britain: January 1886

Urusla Wraithdale, the Duchess of Kendal, sometime adventuress, world traveler and woman of leisure, looked at herself critically reflected in the full length mirror of her dressing room. She considered her image leisurely. She wore a beautiful dress of deep rich dark green, decorated with black lace, with a hint of white lace at the neck and wrists. This dress was the one she intended to wear for her ball this coming Friday and she wanted to make sure it was in proper order for that evening. Technically, since her father's death in November she should have been in mourning clothes, but her father who had detested Society's obsession with worshipping the conventions: particularly those concerning with mourning ritual, all his life. He had asked his daughter to throw him a big lively, happy party with all their family friends and relations after he had shuffled off to join the choir invisible! Urusla allowed herself a smile at that memory, she was going to dearly miss Papa in the years to come.

"What do you think, Jeremy?"

Her chief butler, Jeremy Haller, considered both his mistress and her remark for a long moment before answering.

"Splendid, Your Grace."

Ursula was a woman of moderate height, had a very pleasing figure, an erect carriage and she moved gracefully and well. She was not regarded by most men as a strictly "classical" beauty, what she was regarded as; was being very dangerously not to say scandalisely attractive. Urusla's long exposure to the hot Brazilian sun, had bronzed her skin to an very unfashionable but very alluring golden hue, which was set off by her long, heavily curled flaming red hair that framed her prettily sculpted face. Her eyes, were an equal parts fascinating and alarming silver white colour, which gave Ursula, a thoroughly disconcerting and mesmerizing gaze when she chose to direct it upon someone. Ordinarily she wore tinted glasses to hide or at least obscure her unusual eye colour. The Wraithdales, tended towards blondes, auburns and the like with regard to their hair colours, and a range of rather more conventional colours with regard to their irises but a few Wraithdales in perhaps every other generation since time immemorial were born with this scarlet hair and these strange eyes. Her late father for instance had those same eyes and hair colour, as did her late mother. Which wasn't all that surprising as they had been fourth cousins from different branches of the Wraithdale family.

"Have all the invitations gone, out Jeremy?"

"Yes, Your Grace, and all the answers have come back most promptly and in the most emphatically affirmative, I must say."

"Good, better then I or Papa, had hoped."

Urusla considered her jewelry for the party, pearls and diamonds, I think, as she looked at the boxes, her personal maid Susan Ravenswing was opening for her inspection.

"Oh, have the Viscount Worthing, and Captain Jameson replied to their invitations yet, Jeremy?"

"Sir Thomas, has responded, Your Grace."  Jeremy said after consulting a note book, that he had withdrawn from his coat pocket. "His ship, is in dockyard hands for at least the next fortnight from the end of the week, so he will be at your disposal for the ball on Friday."

Ursula, smiled inwardly at what Jeremy had diffidently not said, then again he was well aware of his mistress's very personal attachment to the Captain Sir Thomas Jameson, and left it at that.

"I am afraid I have not received a reply from his lordship, the Viscount Worthing, as yet."

That response did not altogether surprise her, either.

The Viscount Worthing, Sir Leopold Stanley Worthing-Topper, was amoung a great many things an accomplished gentlemen, an experienced parliamentarian, soldier, scholar, writer and explorer but what he was not was a social animal. He had absolutely no powers of discrimination, he treated all about him regardless of their walk of life or social standing with the same polite and polished courtesy. This egalitarian habit aside from his sarcastic and insightful wit, made him anathema to many of his peers in British Society, whom he infuriated even more by not giving the slightest jot about what they thought of him. Urusla for her own part absolutely adored him.

On her sixteenth birthday and formal presentation to Society, a then Captain-Lieutenant Leo Worthing-Topper, had gone out of his way on a rare home leave from his duties with the army in 1874 to rescue a completely unknown to him, girl about to be viciously snubbed at her first formal ball. He had not done it because it was the proper thing to do, but because it had been the right thing to do, which made the deepest impression upon her. That he was a handsome, decorated military hero and gave her his complete and unreserved attention that evening as both a dancing partner and dinner companion had also made an impression on her as well, she thought with merriment dancing in her eyes. Papa and Mama had nearly died laughing at the scandalized expressions on the faces of those who had tried to so savagely humiliate their daughter.

Sir Leo regarded many of his fellow aristocrats as self-important, overly self-indulgent Dutch or Norman Parvenus and Nouveaux riches, which from a historical perspective, and given his own family pedigree, many of them were; having road many a English king's coat-tails to wealth and power over the centuries since William I. He was only slightly more tolerant of the English gentry class, who had both a much closer often ancient connection with their communities and estates, then the often indolent and absentee aristocracy.

"Give his lordship a day or two more Jeremy, then I think we will hear from him one way or the other." Urusla said after a few moments more consideration.

"Very Good, Your Grace." Jeremy responded crisply.

LordWorthing

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Attendance at the Kendal Ball (Part III)
Schomberg Palace, London, Great Britain: January 1886

"Thank you, Deerborn, that will be all." Sir Leo suddenly remarked, as his fingers hit the desk top for the final time. "Tell, Stephen, I shall be joining him in the family dinning room for breakfast momentarily."

"Very Good, My Lord."

As soon, as Deerborn, closed the door behind him, Sir Leo, went to the door and locked it. He wanted neither to be disturbed at this moment nor to have to explain what he was doing. Once that was done, he went back to his desk, unlocked a special drawer hidden by a false panel and leafed through it's contents. Withdrawing a bundle of two dozen letters and a leather bound notebook. Quickly replaced the monocle in his left eye and carefully re-read each of the letters, giving particular attention to three of them addressed to him by the late 3rd Duke of Kendal, Sir Geoffrey Wraithdale.

Sir Leo, then carefully restacked the letters and turned his attention to the leather notebook, flipping through several pages, filled with scribbled notes of drafts of figures, sums and accounts. He abruptly snapped the notebook shut after several long moments of study. The residue of Sir Geoffrey's estate was considerable... so considerable in point of fact, that many men might play a dangerous game to either gain it or at least control it. Sir Leo replaced the items in their locked drawer, and left his study to make his way downstairs to the dinning room with the morning newspapers and the Duchess's letter under his arm.

"Morning, Leo." Stephen remarked from the long table, his breakfast already finished save for a cup of coffee set at his elbow, as he leafed through the morning papers. Sir Leo's older brother, the 7th Duke of Schomberg, as was his habit dressed in his naval uniform, which to do him justice suited him wonderfully well. Dark haired and dark eyed, like all the Worthing-Topper men with a face rendered tanned by the sun and long periods of sea service, Stephen looked the picture of the gallant and professional British Royal Navy officer. His good looks, smartly trimmed moustaches and goatee, his considerable height - he was nearly six feet from head to toe - enhanced that image, as did the rows of service ribbons and decorations that adorned his chest.

"Morning, Stephen." Sir Leo responded as he filled a plate from the buffet, deposited it on the table with his papers, then returned to the buffet for a cup of tea. "Vivian not joining us this morning?" he remarked over his shoulder. Stephen's wife was punctuality personified, so her absence was immediately noticed by Sir Leo.

"No, still taking things gently this morning. That preparation, your man, Otani, came up with helped with her cold very well last night. Vivi' is breathing more normally, I think she got a decent rest finally, although she's still has not gotten her appetite back fully. Still, she got down a glass of orange juice, a chocolate roll and some coffee at 7:30 this morning, so hopefully she'll be receptive to something with more substance by lunch."

"I will pass on your compliments to Otani, then shall I?" Sir Leo remarked with a smile over the brim of his tea cup.

"Please." Stephen rejoined between sips of his own coffee. "Any plans for the day?"

"I have some errands and some parliamentary committee duties to attend to this morning, yes. Although I should be free by the late afternoon, at the earliest. Am I required for some special social duty?"

"Mama, will be joining us, shortly and she's in one of her moods, again."

"Which one would that be? Let me guess: it's either I or Wilfred are behaving absolutely disgracefully, again, or Cecilia has done something that Mama does not approve of?"

Stephen surprised himself with a short bark of laughter at his younger brother's equal parts droll and exasperated tone. Stephen had always been the dutiful son, with regards their parents, while the youngest son, Lionel Wilfred had always been something of the black sheep of the family. Leopold however had always had the most stubbornly independent strike of the three brothers, and thought absolutely nothing of answering back to either of their parents if he thought they were in the wrong or being merely obstinate. Father, of course had never been bothered by this: it showed his second son had character. Leo was as a rule rarely disrespectful to them even if he managed to exasperate them at times and in most reasonable things was perfectly willing to accommodate his parents wishes and commands. Mama had always taken it badly however, she saw her middle son's having a mind of his own, as nothing less then patent disloyalty, disrespect and disobedience.

Sir Leo rolled his eyes, at his brother's expression. At that moment, Wilfred casually sauntered into the dinning room and helped himself to a cup of coffee.

"Morning, fellows." He said affably. Both his elder brothers nodded in return, before resuming their study of the morning news.

"Better make yourself scarce Wilfred, Mama may be on the warpath again." Sir Leo said without looking up from his letter.

"Oh God, and it's only just past breakfast?!" Wilfred remarked with a look of mock innocence and  horror written on his face.

"You are as bad as Leo, Wilfred!" Stephen shot back with a chuckle and shake of his head. Cecilia, their youngest sibling chose that moment to make her appearance in the dinning room.

"Morning." She said gaily, her brothers smiled in unison, Cecilia had a way of lighting up a room with her sunny disposition and graceful beauty. She quickly seated herself beside her favourite brother, Leo, as Wilfred gathered up a plate of food for her.

"Thanks, Freddie." As Wilfred laid the plate before her, and topped up a cup of coffee for her as well. Cecilia was the only one who called Wilfred by the nickname 'Freddie', or rather more importantly was allowed to. Leo and Stephen, usually called him Will or Wilfred, as they knew he was less then enthralled with his first  Christian name Lionel.

"Oooh!" Cecilia cooed as she say the letter from the Duchess of Kendal, Cecilia was never one to pry into others affairs but she loved news, adored gossip and absolutely cherished parties. It didn't hurt that she was an acquaintance of the Duchess's and shared much the same social circles.

"You got an invitation to Ursula's ball too, Leo?" Cecilia remarked between sips of coffee.

"You as well?"

"Yes, the first round of invitations went out eight weeks ago, you were still in Africa, so it's not surprising that you missed yours. Today, this Monday, she sent out a second round to re-confirm everyone's attendance and remind those who got missed the first round for one reason or another."

"Hm." Sir Leo said seemingly refusing to comment further as he looking at the formal card of invitation.

"You are planning on attending...?" Cecilia asked coyly, leaning closer to her brother. "The Duchess's Ball, just would not be the same without her Captain of the Scarlet Battalions... ." Cecilia's voice had dropped to a low, alluring octave with the last words. A bright light of mirth, conspiracy and devilry glowed in her dark brown eyes. Sir Leo instantly swatted his sister over her golden head with the invitation.

"Bad Girl."

LordWorthing

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Attendence at the Kendal Ball (Part IV)
Schomberg Palace, London, Great Britain: January 1886

The Dowager Duchess of Schomberg picked that moment to enter the dinning room, Deerborn shuffling in tow, like a small wretched fishing boat caught in the powerful wake of a larger, more stately ship-of-the-line under full sail. Her Grace Norma Worthing-Topper was a breathtakingly beautiful and vigourous woman, it was easy to see where her daughter Cecilia had come by her comely good looks. Even at sixty-five their mother could still turn heads and gather a crowd of adoring not to say drooling male admirers around her at any social gathering she designed to attend to the seething envy of all other women present.

Her formerly blonde hair had it was true silvered with age, which however only enhanced her regal looks, while her bright blue eyes were as they had always been lustrous and clear. Her children rose wordlessly at her approach and bowed respectfully just before she seated herself at the end of the table opposite her eldest son with Deerborn's assistance. Her eyes swept over them, her full lips pressed flat across the fullness of her mouth being neither a smile nor a frown but ready to shift with the slightest twist of her lips into either.

Yes, they thought she was definitely in one of her moods. Deerborn, fussed wordlessly at the buffet preparing her plate, placing it before her on the table then hastening to procure a cup of black coffee for her. The silence in the room would have made the sound of a hat or a hair pin hitting the table top sound like that of a falling anvil. Wilfred busied himself with preparing his own plate, then took his seat. The silence in the room stretched on.

Sir Leo regarded his mother for several moments in complete silence. He knew the look his mother was giving both Wilfred and Cecilia, any minute they would receive the angry bite of her tongue over some real or imagined fault or sin they had committed. Without looking he knew Stephen was thinking the same thing, and knew that his older brother would shortly try and do or say something to deflect her anger. Sir Leo finished his breakfast unhurriedly, seemingly completely unruffled by his mother's basilisk gaze. After finishing his tea, he proceeded to write a note on a blank sheet of paper torn from his writing note book. Folding the page neatly, placing it within a small envelope he had brought with him he looked up at Deerborn standing diffidently at his mother's shoulder.

"Deerborn, kindly give this to Saunders, have him take it immediately to the address indicated upon it. Tell him he is to ask for an immediate reply from the recipient. He is to return the response to me as quickly as possible by either person or telegram, whichever proves to be more efficacious at the given moment upon his return. Am I understood." His words were polite but his tone was alarmingly flat and the last three words in particular were spoken in such a way as to be understood as not being a question.

"Err...Yes, My Lord. I shall attend to it directly. My Lord."

Sir Leo watched as Deerborn left hurriedly on his appointed errand, then turned his gaze back to his mother, tossing his fountain pen down onto the open note book. This action broke the brittle silence that filled the room, his next words smashed it to flinders.

"Well, out with it, Mama. I have a dozen errands to run before the day is out all of them necessary or tedious and I will be stuck in the Houses of Parliament, most of the day listening to applications before the Special Appellate and Parliamentary Committee for the Consideration of Divorce Cases." His three siblings looked at him with surprise and alarm in their eyes. Sir Leo leaned back in his chair, merely crossed his arms in front of him and awaited his mother's reply. The Dowager Duchess's eyes flashed blue fire at her second son's remarks. His flat, imperturbable gaze angered her still more.

Sir Leo's chairmanship of that said committee - one of several such parliamentary bodies of a technical, military or legal nature that he was a member of - was a sore point between them amounting to a virtual ulcer with his mother; a deeply devoted and sincere high church Anglican. The Dowager Duchess absolutely abhorred the very notion of divorce. The fact her second son routinely presided over such cases that had by British Law to be brought before Parliament to even be acted upon, since he had retired from military service on medical grounds back in '83 both horrified and revolted her. The fact that in the first three months of directing the committee, he had cleared a backlog of some eight hundred cases pending before Parliament some of them years if not decades old, brought order and system to a previously overly bureaucratic, painfully ineffectual and hideously expensive method of executing parliamentary and marriage law horrified her beyond measure. A fact she never ceased in season and out of season to make perfectly clear in the most passionate and ultra conservative terms to her son at every opportunity. Totally without result or effect it might be added, Sir Leo was his father's son: stubborn, opinionated and thoroughly determined to do his duty according to his own lights to his sovereign and his country weather anyone else like what he was doing or not.

The Dowager abruptly rose from her chair, looked icily at her son, then turned from the table without a word to any of them. She swept out of the dining room, nearly knocking old Deerborn aside as he attempted to re-enter the room. The old butler stood baffled for a long moment in the doorway then shuffled after his mistress. Everyone else in the dinning room started to breath again at that moment.

"Leo, old boy." Wilfred began. "I thought you were going to get a right royal thrashing there from Mama's razor sharp tongue."

"Oh, it may still come to that, Wilfred but it will be later and in private. at least I have deflected her wrath for the present onto me, not you and Cecilia." Sir Leo felt his sister's hand slip over his when he placed it on the table to gather up his newspapers, letter and note book.

Stephen rose from his chair, walked round the table to clasp his younger brother firmly on the shoulder, giving him a brotherly shake of support and affection, then made for the door remarking as he did so.

"I will see if I cannot calm Mama down a bit, Leo. If she rants at me for an hour or two, she will forget the whole affair by the time she calls on her society friends for luncheon."

"You should not have done that, Leo. But... thanks awfully." For a moment, the image of the accomplished and delightfully willful young woman beside him slide back through time back into the sometimes troubled and tearful young girl who had so often turned to her older brother for succor, understanding and comfort. Sir Leo rose quietly from the table, leaned down and kissed the top of his sister's head.

"What is the use of big brothers and captains of scarlet battalions, if not to rescue fair damsels and young fools from dragons, monsters under beds and in closets and frightful governors and governess' and terrible old dowagers."

"Hey, now!" Wilfred burst out laughing from his side of the table. Sir Leo had twitted his younger brother since as long as any of them could remember about his vices, weaknesses really: strong drink, games of chance and the company of attractive women who were most definitely not his wife or girlfriend.

"Well, I am off then." Sir Leo remarked quietly as he nodded to each of his siblings and made for the door. He had a tremendous number of things to do today before lunch and the quicker he was about them the sooner they would be done and he could turn his mind and attention to the affairs of the Duchess of Kendal.

LordWorthing

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Attendence at the Kendal Ball (Part V)
Piccadilly Square, London, Great Britain: January 1886


The pretty auburn haired waitress withdrew after placing the shallow bowls of savoury Consomme Olga soup before them at their private table in the Restaurant Calvary. The owner of the very exclusive, very fashionable London restaurant, Charles Francis Calvary, was an old school friend of Sir Leo's, they had attended Barchester College together. Sir Leo had helped arrange the financing and advertisement for the restaurant when it first opened some years ago. Calvary an enterprising and efficient manager, maitre'd and chef himself had made the business a splendid social and financial success. Consequently, Charles insisted that his old friend, Sir Leo, who in the course of time had been the best man at his wedding, favourite godfather of his children as well as his business partner be given preferencial treatment by the staff whenever he dined at Calvary's.

"Thank you, for inviting me to lunch, Sir Leo."

"You are welcome, Ursula. I thought it necessary in the circumstances, although I admit the pleasure of your company makes it less an unwelcome duty."

"What trouble could I ever be to you, Sir Leo?" Ursula asked mildly perplexed, by Sir Leo's, suddenly serious tone and manner. When his man Saunders had unexpectedly turned up at her door that morning just after breakfast she had been delighted at the offer of luncheon together by Sir Leo. It would serve two purposes for her; it would allow them to catch up with each other, share their news and experiences, and it would save her from having to accept an invitation to an early afternoon tea with the horridly boring Timberton sisters and their equally banal coterie of aristocratic courtiers, sycophants and hangers on in their society salon in the Grosvenor Mansions.

Sir Leo, fixed his gaze on her through his monocle, for a long moment, obviously thinking over how to best tackle the subject. Suddenly, he gave a small shrug, then spoke without attempting to dress up or finesse the issue at hand.

"What you are Ursula, is a newly minted, young and unmarried duchess; the pinnacle of the titled aristocracy short of the Royal Family, with a very desirable fortune. A fortune that makes you one of the richest women in the Empire, let alone Europe. Fifty-three million pounds sterling in the Bank of England, twenty-two million in the Bank of Switzerland, seven point five million combined in the Banks of Nova Scotia and Montreal and the Royal Bank of Canada, and some fifteen million in the Imperial Bank of Brazil. With I might add, a personal monthly income running into the six figures. All of which when taken together with your very considerable personal charms and considerable landed properties and corporate holdings makes you a most desirable bachelorette."

"Just how do you know so much about my financial situation?" Ursula asked, a trace of apprehension and confusion filtered into her voice.

"Your father made me one of the seven man council of executors and trustees of his and by extension your estate, several years ago."

"Oh." Ursula looked down at her soup, stirring its contents idly. "A single woman in possession of a fortune must be in want of a husband?" She could see her parents setting things up like that to protect her, she felt grateful that even now after their deaths they were still looking out for and after her best interests.

"A good paraphrase of Jane Austen, my dear. So quite a few unmarried and financially challenged men will think. Some will be moved to take a gambler's throw at you, they have nothing to lose and a king's or in this case a duchess's ransom to win. Very few of them will have your best interests close to their hearts."

"Well they can save themselves the effort, Leo." Ursula said with some heat in her voice and expression. "I am not some prized mare to be haggled over or bartered for."

"Good." Sir Leo, announced over the edge of his glass of Port. The slightest of smiles played on his lips. To her surprise and not a little relief, Sir Leo suddenly shifted the tract of the conversation. "Still set on that young fellow of your's, Captain Thomas Jameson?"

"Yes." Ursula responded, the barest hint of a blush creeping onto her bronzed cheeks. "I intend to use the ball on Friday to make that perfectly clear. To everyone." Sir Leo's slight smile widened still more and his brown eyes twinkled at her.

"Good. Name the wedding day and I will be there, in full dress uniform, come hell or high water. Even if I have to marry the two of you myself."

"T-Thank you, Leo." She murmured softly her voice catching in her throat, it was obvious to him that she was suppressing with difficulty a great depth of feeling. "That means a great deal to me. Do you, think that Papa and Mama would have approved?"

Sir Leo considered the question for a minute, before answering.

"Of you becoming, Mrs. Jameson? Yes, I think they would."

Mrs. Wraithdale-Jameson, if you please." Ursula reproved him with a smile playing on her lips. Sir Leo's own smile blossomed into something like a grin.

"Thomas has agreed to that?" He asked observing her with an arched eyebrow over his glass.

"Well no. Not yet... exactly, but he will, I just need to convince him."

"Ursula, the last time I recall seeing you 'convince' someone, it involved you liberally and repeatedly applying the blunt end of an army service revolver to their skull."

"Well, yes. That was a somewhat... ahem... extreme case on my part, I admit. Although I do not think, in this instance, Thomas will require... quite that much persuasion on my part."

"A toast then." Sir Leo lifted his glass again. Ursula lifted her own glass to match his. "To the successs of your first social ball as the Duchess of Kendal, Ursula, may it be the first of many for both of you."

Their glasses clinked together musically.

LordWorthing

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Attendance at the Kendal Ball (VI)
Piccadilly Square, London, Great Britain: January 1886


Finishing the soup, Sir Leo and Ursula turned their attention to the main course of their meal, which was quickly and deftly placed before them by the returning waitress, roasted quail served with duchess potatoes and asparagus hollandaise. She paused only long enough to refill their drinks before withdrawing to attend the other tables in the luxurious room. It's roof and walls were decorative metalwork mixed with equally decorative woodwork fitted with semi-opaque stained glass panels, which threw a soft, mellow light throughout the whole room which reminded it's two dozen occupants of a quiet, pleasant green house. The floors were fitted with deep, plush carpets covered in botanical designs of beautiful flowers and coiling vines. A quartet of musicians -- a cello, two violins and a flute -- played softly in a annex on one side of the room surrounded by cultivated rose bushes. George Calvary reserved this elegant room, within the restaurant, for special customers or old friends exclusively.

"Speaking of balls, my written response of acceptance should be delivered to your residence within the hour. I believe that Cecilia has already sent her acceptance."

"Excellent. It will be good to have you and Cecilia there."

"I understand the Friday ball is expected to be one of special significance, the society papers are already chattering about it. Even the House of Lords and the House of Commons is rife with speculation about who is and who is not invited."

"I fail to see why? After all, it is only five hundred people, most of them my family's closest and oldest friends and relations." Ursula responded guilelessly although the wicked gleam in her eyes said otherwise, a moment later she giggled at Sir Leo's arch expression of mock disbelief. The five hundred people involved just happened to include a good section of ultra fashionable London, a quarter of the House of Lords and a great many celebrities in the British world of the arts, sciences and literature. Not to mention gentry, politicians, bankers, financiers and business persons of no small accomplishments. That also did not include the virtual army of servants, waiters, caterers and musicians being engaged for the evening.

"Young lady, you are absolutely incorrigible, you do know that?"

"Guilty as charged." Ursula retorted with a laugh.

"Well it runs in both sides of your family so perhaps it can not be helped." Sir Leo said with a sigh, shaking his head sorrowfully. Ursula could not control the fit of giggles his lugubrious expression touched off, and only sternly brought it to a halt by returning her attention to her meal. The two managed to get generally caught up on their respective news by the time the desert, arrived a mix of fresh fruit, cheese and biscuits. From her side she told of her experiences in Brazil, managing her family's collection of coffee plantations which were finally making a better then average profit sufficient to justify their acquisition. Sir Leo, discussed with her the high lights of his adventures occasioned by his West Africa and Western Sudan expedition.

By the time the coffee arrived, Ursula was shaking her head in wonder at what Sir Leo had so recently gone through in his many months away from British shores, and even more surprised that he had come through it in one piece with life and limb intact. Ursula, did not know the half of it because there was a great deal more about the trip that Sir Leo did not give voice to. For instance the fact that the expedition was not merely for geographical, zoological and biological concerns or even for trade or establishing formal and normalized diplomatic relations with the Wassoulou Empire. The real backers of the Worthing Expedition had been the British government, and was based entirely on their calculations of furthering the Great Game that dominated European politics and alliances.

Great Britain needed a buffer against French expansionism in West Africa, and embroiling France on one side and Germany and Wassoulou on the other was a means to do that. It would also largely leave Britain's hands free of the whole affair if anything went wrong and be relatively inexpensive to the British taxpayers. Well not that inexpensive in the long run, as it was going to cost the Exchequer over forty-five million pounds over the next three years. The British government had promised Samori about fifteen million pounds in three separate installments in that time frame. Sir Leo had already delivered the first installment and used the second installment to purchase trade goods, munitions and armaments for Samori's Royal Army. The third installment would do the same through other intermediaries in German West Africa to purchase munitions and armaments for Samori's Field and Garrison armies.

Sir Leo looked regretfully at the clock over the room's mantel piece, it was almost two o'clock. He had a great many affairs in Parliament to deal with before he was free to spend his day as he pleased. Several articles of parliamentary business to read through, a bill to vote on and of course five selected divorce cases to review and conduct before the committee. It was going to be a long day, Sir Leo thought. Ursula noticed Sir Leo's gaze and nodded to herself, and suspected what he was thinking. She had some affairs of her own to deal with concerning the coming ball. Sir Leo signaled the waitress for their bill.

"Again, Sir Leo, thanks for inviting me to lunch. it was a very pleasant way to spend a few hours."

"Saved you from some other tedious social invitation?"

"Yes, the Timbertons invited me to tea this afternoon."

"Dear God, that is something to be avoided at all costs. Lilly and Melinda are two of most beautiful and fashionable women to grace London, they are also two of it's infinitely most boring people imaginable. Well that is not quite true, but they certainly attract all the other loungers and idly stupid people in London society to them." Sir Leo observed wryly. Ursula nodded feelingly, then they both rose as Sir Leo placed their bill's payment and the waitress's tip on the table.

"I will see you next at the ball." Both said simultaneously, which caused them to both start laughing softly.

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Attendence at the Kendal Ball (Part VII)
Grosvenor Square, London, Great Britain: January 1886


The next four days had flowed by following their own predetermined course dictated by custom, social standing and occupation. For Sir Leo, reflected wryly as his carriage trundled towards the Wraithdale residence through the streets of West London. The Duchess of Kendal's Ball, was to be one of the first society balls of what was considered the London Season. Most of fashionable London had begun filtering back into the capital right after Christmas, most of them to take their seats in Parliament either as members of the House of Lords or the House of Commons. The real social season did not get underway until after Parliament's Easter Recess, then it when straight on hell for leather until August 12, when everyone in London who was part of the aristocracy, gentry and fashionable set quit the city for the countryside for the grouse season. Parliamentary adjournments for the following  partridge season on September 1, pheasant season October 1 and fox hunting on the first Monday in November acted as periodic breaks on the London Season, which amounted to some one-hundred days, and one-hundred nights of non-stop parties, balls, dances, and sporting, artistic, theatre and musical events.

Most people in society did not realize how regulated their lives were by custom and habit, most people of his own class rose at 7:30 or 8:00 am, and their day did not often end until 3:00 am that night. Sir Leo had grown to manhood in a military family, many of his forebears had been generals, admirals, estate owners, governmental councilors and the like, so a life guided by details, regulations and system did not particularly bother him, but his was all too aware how a clock and a calendar could and did rule his life. Most of the aristocracy and gentry did not think about: it was the way things were, the way things were always going to be. Sir Leo for his part often found London Society; smug, conceited and vapidly stupid, it's obsessive concern with outward appearances, oh so poised manners and things that were not of the slightest moment. Sir Leo put it down to the fact that all too many of people in London Society, had never had their lives endangered, never had to face what was really important or worthy in life. Sir Leo had served Queen and Country for fourteen years; he had seen a side of life, in all it's darks, shadows and lights, that few of his pampered fellow aristocrats had ever seen.

Sir Leo shook the thoughts aside, he was not going to turn up at Ursula's first ball in a black mood, it would spoil the evening's ambiance if nothing else. Tonight promised to be as bright, lively and entertaining an evening one could have. His carriage continued down the line of mansions, palaces and courtly houses of Gorsvenor Square. Their architectural styles were as varied as the great families that resided within them, Tudor, Gothic, Baroque and Rocco, amoung other styles could be seen and distinguished against the glow of the street lamps. Finally he came to the imposing Wraithdale Gate, the entrance to Basilscourt, the great courtyard that joined the older Wraithdale House, the slightly  newer Wraithdale Hall and the Kendal Palace, which made up the Duchess of Kendal's new ducal palace in London. Originally the three buildings had been separate buildings in their own rights, the Wraithdale House, as it was called, was more like a medieval castle then a house, it glowed over its surroundings with turrets and battlements, it's architecture neo-Romanesque and Gothic in tone. Wraithdale Hall was lighter, more Baroque with a touch of the Rocco about it, more the splendid urban palace or chateau then fortress. Kendal Palace, the London home of the various Dukes and Duchesses of Kendal was just as imposing as it's two neighbours, mixing Baroque, Rocco and Gothic features.

The carriage rattled up to the gate, stopping briefly to present his invitation to the Wraithdale family attendants guarding the gateway. Current social custom required, a guest who was invited to a ball, to arrive approximately thirty minutes to ninety minutes of hour of the time specified on the invitation. Sir Leo snapped his pocket watch open, he was in good time the ball was set to start for 10:00 pm exactly. The bulk of the guests coming to the Kendal Ball had already dined at 8:00 pm in a series of sumptuous dinner parties arranged in Sir Geoffrey's honour by the Duchess of Kendal's staff, at Calvary's. The place had been packed to bursting, Sir Leo thought with amusement and George had made more then a pretty penny on it too, if that night's receipts were anything to go by. Still everyone had enjoyed the evening meal, the music and the shared memories of the late Duke and Duchess of Kendal. Still the attendants did nothing by halves, they were on the watch for party crashers of various sorts, and checked his invitation against a master list. The attendant passed back his invitation and gave Sir Leo a crisp salute, and then waved Sir Leo's carriage on and into the great courtyard. Various carriages were already drawn up in the paved space before him. A glance even with the with his vision hindered by the winter darkness, revealed several of the carriages had coats-of-arms as ornate as his own. The society gossips and reporters watching the gateway would be flipping through Burke's Peerage and the Royal Calendar before morning trying to identify all the attending aristocrats and gentry.

Sir Leo alighted from the carriage with practiced ease, the pavement was slick with patches of ice and frost, his breath fogging in the night air. Straightening his long dark cloak and inverness coat, which covered his full dress uniform, Sir Leo paused long enough to don his black cloth and yellow metaled spiked helmet. The badge of the British Army, combined with the badge of the Royal Corps of Engineers gleamed dully in the lamp light of the courtyard. Right, best foot forward, Sir Leo thought, two attendants trailed him making sure he would come to no harm if he took a miss step on the pavement on his way to the main doorway.

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Attendence at the Kendal Ball (Part VIII)
Kendal Palace, Grosvenor Square, London, Great Britain: January 1886


Sir Leo signaled the attendants to leave him and see to the next group of incoming carriages. The sturdy walking stick he had with him would suffice to help keep his own balance. Both men nodded and walked swiftly back across the pavement. Sir Leo turned back to the great entrance and walked casually towards it taking in the architecture, he was no stranger to this place, but the beauty of the place even at night lite only by gas light was impressive. The architects have managed to blend the various often contrasting styles of the various buildings added at various times into a comfortable and unified whole. The gentle frosting of ice and snow covering the roof tops and grounds reflected the light and twinkled in the darkness like gems.

Sir Leo felt his mood lightening, the strains of music were audible to the ear, as people ahead of him passed through the great double doors of the Kendal Palace inlaid in bronze with the combined Ducal arms and the Wraithdale arms. A group of plain clothes detectives and several uniformed and heavily armed police constables stood at either side of the doorway as he approached working with one of the Wraithdale family chamberlains and several foot postilions. This hardly surprised Sir Leo given the wealth and social precedence of many of those on the guest list for tonight.

Big Ben, the great clock of Westminster, struck the hour, silhouetted like some giant castle tower or keep against the night sky. Sir Leo  had always thought since he had first seen it in childhood of Big Ben as the sentinel of London, with four giant eyes watching out from it's four faces to the four major points of the compass. A glance at the hands of his watch with the aid of the soft light coming from the Great Door, showed it was 10:00 pm exactly. The formal reception for the ball would start shortly.

Sir Leo passed through the imposing security cordon, showed his invitation to the chamberlain, and was cordially ushered through the great doors and into the reception hall beyond. He paused only briefly to discard his heavy cloak and coat into the custody of one of the waiting cloak room postilions, along with his heavy helmet. Sir Leo then was directed into the hall itself, the Senior Butler of Kendal Hall greeted him quietly, and turned to announce him to the general throng of people who already occupied the spacious reception hall. Henry Addington had once been a classically trained and very successful Opera and Shakespearean actor in his youth, before he had found himself by hard times and happy circumstances in Sir Geoffrey's employ and he used his still powerful and crisply articulated voice to good affect when announcing the guests as they arrived. The staff in his gloved hands struck the hard stone floor three times.

"The Right Honourable, the Viscount Worthing." He boomed with a voice worthy of a sergeant-major on a battalion drill field. The excellent accoutics of the cavernous hall did not hurt either as nearly everyone in the hall hear it clearly and turned to view the newcomer, standing at the top of the ten steps that lead from the Door Hall into the Reception Hall. Some three hundred eyes turned on him, as he walked slowly down the ten steps. He knew a great many of these people, Sir Geoffrey and the Wraithdale family as a rule moved in varied and interesting circles of society, although not always circles some of their aristocratic contemporaries approved of. However being a Duke meant as a rule that one could safely if politely ignore most of the other peers below oneself and get on with enjoying yourself.

At the moment his attention concentrated on one person and one person alone. Ursula Wraithdale. She stood some twenty feet from the foot of the stairs, receiving the guests who had entered just before him, greeting each cordially and being greeted warmly in turn. The light airy and soothing notes of the opening to Vivaldi's Four Seasons floated through the room, setting the tone for the evening. Ursula herself looked absolutely vibrant tonight, every inch the aristocratic duchess and accomplished woman of society, although her rich sun tanned colouring would have sent many a more conventional society dame's teeth on edge. Her flaming red hair worn long and heavily curled and coiffed was set off by both her golden hued skin and her fabulous dark green dress, trimmed in decorative and expensive black lace and a hint of white silk or satin at neck and wrists. Her jewelry while deceptively plain, being confined to arrangements, around her throat, brow and ears, of diamonds and pearls were of excellent quality and beauty.

Her dress left her shoulders daringly bare, while falling in a figure hugging cascade of beautifully cut cloth all the way to the floor. The shallowly plunging neckline of the dress was formed into a crescent of black lace with its sharply contrasting line of white against her skin, neatly framing her very appealing bosom. A tiara of diamonds with pearl ornaments adorned her forehead, while a black silk, white laced pearl decorated choker encircled her throat, it's centerpiece was a large flawless stone of more then unusual brilliance. Her ears were decorated with diamonds clasps to which a single large tear-drop pearl was hung. Two pearl necklaces encircled her neck, then fell at two lengths down the front of her dress, the first just below the edge of her laced bust, the second, fell three hand spans lower to stop at her midriff just above her hips. Her arms were covered in long sleeved gloves, which terminated just short of her shoulder, and were like her throat decorated at wrist and just before the shoulder with bands of diamonds and pearls.

Beside her stood a smartly dressed and turned out gentlemen in the dark blue uniform of the British Merchant Marine, with the four gold lace rings of a full captain on his cuffs. A cluster of mercantile decorations for service and medals of merit as well as several British and foreign decorations for gallantry were fitted neatly to the upper part of his tunic. A splendid Lloyd's Patriotic Fund presentation sword decorated his left hip.

Captain Sir Thomas Jameson.

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Attendence at the Kendal Ball (Part IX)
Kendal Palace, Grosvenor Square, London, Great Britain: January 1886


Sir Thomas Jameson, stood close to Ursula, dark haired, dark eyed, handsome with an erect carriage and trim figure, he looked every inch the experienced and dashing sea captain that he was. The Jamesons had originated in the Isle of Bute, in the Hebrides, Scotland before putting down roots in the County of Barcestshire, England sometime in the 1300s. The Jamesons had become overtime, gentlemen farmers, artisans and county officials over the next five hundred years, they had acquired a baronetcy some three generations back due to service in the American Revolutionary war and quietly become part of the English Gentry.

One of the few things that Sir Thomas and Sir Leo had in common, aside from Ursula, was they were both members of the London Travelers Club and had attended Barchester College. Sir Thomas had studied with an eye to the medical or military profession, and had hopes of becoming either a physician or a surgeon. Family connections had garnered a commission as a midshipman in the Royal Navy and Sir Thomas had entertained hopes of a long and distinguished career. Illness in the form of an extended and nearly fatal bout of fever contracted in India ended his military career after six years. Sir Thomas was forced to retire from active service at the rank of Lieutenant. Family financial constraints had then forced Sir Thomas to turn to the merchant marine to find gainful employment, as a ship's doctor. While not Sir Thomas's first choice, he would have preferred to establish himself in a lucrative London practice, he had made the best of it and gained both experience and a solid professional reputation in the Locke & Key Line. Over time he had become the doctor of choice for the Line's fast passenger ship captains.

In 1882, Doctor Thomas Jameson's world changed forever, a routine passage from Britain to Brazil turned into a bloody disaster when three pirate airships and two privateering surface ships attacked the Liner S.S. Laura, which he was aboard as chief surgeon. In the space of half an hour, Jameson wound up being the only ship's officer still standing unwounded or killed. By dint of hard effort he rallied the crew and passengers and managed not only to retake the liner from it's captors but turn the tables on them, capturing one of the surface ships, while sinking the other pirate ship and blowing two of the airships out of the sky. The surviving pirate airship fled the scene, leaving Jameson in command of the field of action and the spoils so to speak. One Lady Ursula Wraithdale happened to be one of the passengers about the S.S. Laura on this occasion, and in the course of events, the two made considerable impression upon each other. A very lasting impression as events would later show.

Sir Thomas, as he became after the affair, knighted by the order of the Queen, had become something of a celebrity in nautical circles. The Locke & Key Line, had transferred him from the medical branch to the command branch of their service, and from then on placed him in command of a variety of their fast passenger liners. His captaincy of the various Liners had been to date a success and much to his credit. Energetic, charming, capable and an extremely pushy young man, many expected him to rise to the post of senior commodore of the Locke & Key Line within a few years.

Sir Leo expected that once Ursula and Sir Thomas were formally engaged, although he suspected that the two were secretly engaged already that he would be seeing a lot more of both of them together whenever he was in London.

Ursula turned to greet Sir leo, who moved to stand before her.

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Attendence at the Kendal Ball (Part X)
Kendal Palace, Grosvenor Square, London, Great Britain: January 1886

Sir Leo suddenly for his part, felt as if a decade has just slide backward in time, he saw a young, mildly nervous and prettily attired young lady making her first presentation to formal society. His lips quirked into a smile at the memory. Ursula saw the smile and the twinkle in his brown eyes, and tilted her head slightly to one side questioningly.

"My apologies, Your Grace, I was suddenly reminded of the first ball, we both attended some years ago."

Ursula smiled in response, that particular ball in 1874 had been memorable for a lot of reasons not all of them pleasant of course given the circumstances, but it had lead to a close platonic friendship between her and Sir Leo which endured to this day. Then Captain-Lieutenant Leo Stanley Worthing-Topper had just returned from Africa on a delayed but necessary medical leave after being seriously wounded twice in action against the Abyssinians the pervious year to discover on his arrival back in Great Britain that he had just been elevated to the rank of Viscount upon the death of his father, the 6th Duke of Shromburg a month earlier. His older brother Stephen, had of course succeeded their father as the new 7th Duke and in doing so passed on his own family courtesy title of Viscount Worthing to his younger brother Leopold along with it's associated holdings, civic duties and feudal responsibilities and the rents, tithes and investments.

In all it had been a thoroughly bad start to the year, and Sir Leo had been in no mood to attend a society ball at his mother's insistence. He had been even less of a mood to stand idly by and watch a young girl be humiliated by a bunch of self important snobs and social butterflies. A man who had recently endured both a sword thrust to the jaw and been run through with an Abyssinian pike was not the sort to quail before the threat of mere social barbs. There were some compensations to being both a decorated military hero and being a member of the British Peerage and Sir Leo decided to make ruthless and entertaining use of them that particular evening.

Ursula's own white eyes began to twinkle brightly at the memory and something like a mischievous grin graced her lips, Sir Thomas saw the look and raised an eye brow in silent question and not a little curiosity. He knew that both Ursula and Sir Leo had a history together and while their closeness gave him occasional twinges of jealousy it never gave him cause for concern otherwise.

Before anyone of the three could speak a word, someone cleared their throat quietly but none to subtlety at Ursula's side. Both Sir Leo and Sir Thomas watched in only partially concealed amusement as Ursula's lips tried to flex into both a bemused smile and a grimace at the same time. Ursula's aunt, the Lady Penelope Wraithdale, took a step forward and tapped her niece gently and reprovingly on the shoulder with her lace fan.

"You still have a great many people to greet, young lady. Time to socialize with old gallants and admirers, later."

"Yes, Aunt Penelope."

Lady Penelope's own lips quirked into a very alluring full lipped smile, her dark eyes sparkled at her niece. She was actually only a few years older then her niece, being closer to Sir Leo in age, although greatly surpassing him in looks as far as he was concerned. Lady Penelope was quite as beautiful and iron willed as all the Wraithdale women were, although her hair was a soft blond, with darker highlights and her eyes were dark brown rather then silver-white of her late sister, the Duchess of Kendal, Ursula's mother. She was also one of the seven appointees that acted as trustees to the Wraithdale fortune.

"Do not take that tone with me, young lady!"

"Oh dear..." Sir Thomas said half aloud, half to himself and exchanging a side long glance with Sir Leo, who was obviously trying to avoid breaking out into outright laughter at the two women's discourse. This unfortunately brought him to Lady Penelope's attention, her fan snapped shut and rapped him soundly in the chest.

"Sir Thomas! I expect you of all people, to set this incorrigible young lady a good example before the guests."

"My apologies, Lady Penelope." Sir Thomas said contritely, Ursula for her part eyed her man with scant favour at this moment and a wicked look glimmered in her eyes, which promised loving trouble for him later on.

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Attendence at the Kendal Ball (Part XI)
Kendal Palace, Grosvenor Square, London, Great Britain: January 1886


Lady Penelope, after making sure, that her willful niece was attending to her duties as hostess, turned back to Sir Leo and subtly but firmly guided him away from Ursula and Sir Thomas, so as to have a moment alone to talk. The two walked through the throng of assembled guests cluttering the great hall, made the necessary polite but friendly conversation and finally ended up in an side alcove gallery which at that moment was quiet empty of guests or family servants.

As soon as Lady Penelope was sure the two of them were alone, she suddenly sighed feelingly while fanning herself briskly with her lace fan. Less, Sir Leo noted, because she felt hot but to give herself time to collect herself and think.

"I really, really do despair of that, girl, sometimes."

Sir Leo, merely arched an eyebrow in bemused silence, if Lady Penelope had something to say, she would say it presently once she had made her own particular way to it. Lady Penelope noticed, Sir Leo's watchful silence, and flipped her fan up to cover her face, leaving only her dark brown eyes clearly visible. She looked back at him coyly.

Sir Leo flatly refused to be drawn, he knew Lady Penelope all too well. She for her part realized that Sir Leo was not going to play the game, tossed her head in a mix of frustration at something she evidently did not want to bring up but thought she should and amused exasperation at her sparing partner's all too typical lapses into wry humoured silence.

"Baron Landseer is coming to the Ball this evening." Lady Penelope finally said with an irritated sigh. That got Sir Leo's attention, both he and Sir Regis Augustus Crossley, 11th Baron of Landseer had been school mates at the Brookfield Grammar School and Barchester College and good friends. Regis was a man of a good natured, suave and tactful sort. One of nature's born diplomats, and well regarded within foreign diplomatic circles and the British Foreign Office. He was also an old friend of the Wraithdales, which only made it natural for him to be invited to the Ball, what set Sir Leo on his guard was, what Lady Penelope had not just said.

"Lord Landseer did not just happen to invite his younger brother to join him, did he?" Sir Leo said with eyes narrowing behind his monocle. Lady Penelope grimaced feelingly and nodded, Sir Leo sighed softly his monocle falling out of his eye as he did so. The Honourable Lord Roderick Octavius Crossley was not amougst either his or Lady Penelope's favourite people for a number of reasons, Ursula or rather Roderick's past attempts to alternatively insult or court her being the chief amoung them. Ursula for her part absolutely despised him to the depths of her heart and soul.

"Neither of them know about, Ursula and Sir Thomas's engagement yet, do they." Sir Leo remarked wryly. His lips quirked into what might almost be charitably called a sardonic half-smile as he looked at Lady Penelope's expression.

"My God, when he finds out,  Roderick with have a bloody fit!" Sir Leo remarked with something like a chuckle of amusement.

The servant automaton stationed unobtrustively at the entrance to the alcove, made a warning sound of softy but audible clicking gears accented by a musical tone, which caused Sir Leo to turn and look sharply at the entrance, a figure appeared in the soft light streaming through the doorway from the great hall.

"Ah Lady Penelope, just who I was looking for. I believe you wanted a quiet word with the rest of the Wraithdale Trustees, before there were any fireworks tonight?"

Dame Daphne Cosgrave, Q.C. remarked as she crossed the threshold and approached both Lady Penelope and Sir Leo. Cosgrave was an accomplished barrister and acted as the Wraithdale family's primary legal counsel and agent before the Queen's Bench when required. She wore an elegant dress of black cloth decorated with black silk ribbons and white lace. Daphne looked beguilingly splendid, Sir Leo had to admit. Her long white hair was set off by sparkling jewelry at her neck, ears and brow, though they did not sparkle half as enchantingly as her witch green eyes.

"Yes, actually." Lady Penelope returned, Sir Leo noticed from the corner of his eye the way, Penelope schooled her face into a demure expression. Dame Daphne noticed it to, a wicked smile played across her lips as she looked at her friend.

"And keeping the desirable Sir Leo as near to your self as possible I see." Dame Daphne remarked teasingly. Sir Leo smothered the impulse to laugh by replacing his monocle in his left eye, and schooling his face into immobility to keep it there. The fact that he and Lady Penelope had once courted each other quite seriously was old news in London Society, as was abrupt end to it when his mother the Dowager Duchess had put her foot down against it. Not that the Wraithdales had objected to his potential suite at the time, although they did rather object to his mother as a potential in-law!

Dame Daphne did rather enjoy twitting people about everyday things, particularly their society affairs or love lives. She was never vicious about it but she did enjoy having a dig at people. Penelope refused to give her long time friend the satisfaction of a remark, and just fanned herself with her lace fan languidly. Which did absolutely nothing to still the raising colour stealing its way into her cheeks, Sir Leo noticed.

"This teasing party a private affair or one with an open invitation?" Duncan Foster remarked from the entrance, the Wraithdale Family's chief solicitor looked on with an amused expression. Beside him stood Alastair Wycliffe Scattergood, a Wraithdale family friend of long standing, bon vivant, fashionable dandy and gentleman of leisure. Just behind the two of them, Sir Leo could see the two remaining members of the Wraithdale Estate Trustees approaching the alcove, Sir Samuel Thistlewood, one of London's most notable businessmen and self-taught inventors and the Lady Philipa Fieldhouse, one of the rising stars of the London banking and financing institutions.

The next few minutes discussion promised to be more then usually interesting, Sir Leo, thought absently.

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Attendence at the Kendal Ball (Part XII)
Kendal Palace, Grosvenor Square, London, Great Britain: January 1886


Regis Augustus Crossley, 11th Baron of Landseer sat fixedly in his seat as his carriage moved through the great gates of the Kendal Palace. On the face of it, he seemed both unhurried and unconcerned, in point of fact he was just a bit nervous and apprehensive about this evening's ball. His younger brother Roderick Octavius Crossley sat across from him looking as was all too usual for him, distinctly bored and vacant eyed. Neither spoke for some minutes as the carriage slowly crossed the courtyard and moved to a parking space at the direction of one of the Kendal Palace uniformed servants. Regis regarded his silent, indolent younger brother carefully for several long moments before he finally spoke.

"I trust you will behave yourself, Roderick, and not embarrass yourself as usual."

Roderick, jerked out the silent reverie that had enveloped him for much of the carriage's journey, shook himself to clear his thoughts before responding to his older brother's non too subtle dig.

"I never embarrass myself, Regis, although I suppose I do sometimes embarrass you." Roderick responded lightly and languidly. Regis regarded him with a skeptical, jaded air. Roderick was all too capable of making a complete fool of himself on any and all social occasions to both his family's and his own personal discomfort. At least he had so, with astonishing and cringe worthy regularity over the last few years. Mother and Father, really had coddled, spoiled and indulged Roderick, whom they regarded as their golden boy far too much both as a child and as a young man. It showed in every way he acted, conversed and moved through life.

Regis bit back on the caustic remark that immediately presented itself to his brain, and lapsed into a resigned silence. Roderick responded to that with a slight but irritating smirk. Regis was devoted to his younger brother and his numerous sisters but that did not mean he was impressed or happy with their occasional antics or equally ocassional scandals. Regis broke off this line of thought as the carriage rolled to an abrupt stop. Two Wraithdale postillions  appeared at the carriage door, opening it and letting down the moveable steps.

While Regis expected this evening to be generally pleasant, he had a sneaking suspicion that Roderick would commit some gaff or faux pas before the evening was out. Oh well what will be, will be He supposed. I just hope it is something I can easily smooth over or dispel easily, he thought mildly as he nimbly exited the carriage and made for the palace doors, Roderick trailing behind him.

The two gentlemen, went through the paces as they had their outer garments taken by the cloak room pages and waited at the top of the stairs to be announced to the assembled throng of guests and the hostess of the gathering. They were amoung the last arrivals, Lord Landseer noted, some five hundred people packed the hall and side galleries everywhere one looked it seemed. This was not unexpected, the Wraithdales had a lot of friends in various stations of society and had been generous patrons of numerous causes. Regis felt his mood lighten a bit as he was announced and walked down the stairs and followed the people ahead of him to pay his respects to the ball's hostess, the Duchess of Kendal.

Ursula, observed the Baron Landseer as he slowly, gracefully walked down the stairs. He looked very splendid in his black and gold embroidered diplomatic uniform. His not inconsiderable height, broad shoulders and very trim figure and pleasing light blonde hair and sparkling grey eyes did not hurt his looks either, Ursula thought mildly. Ursula sensed Thomas stiffen at her side, she shifted her gaze to follow his, and saw Roderick.

LordWorthing

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Attendence at the Kendal Ball (Part XIII)
Kendal Palace, Grosvenor Square, London, Great Britain: January 1886.


Ursula Wraithdale, eyed the languid, swaggering approach of Lord Roderick Crossley with scant favour, although she concealed it well enough from those immediately around her. Regis Crossley, however, after a life time's service in the diplomatic and consular corps was an expert reader of body language and facial expression. He realized exactly who Ursula was looking at, and knew instantly that it meant trouble. Sir Thomas Jameson's tightly controlled non-expression would have been warning enough to Regis, as he stood silently but supportive beside the duchess.

Sir Leo, warned by the announcement of Baron Landseer's arrival, had quietly but swiftly come back to the young duchess's side with the other six Wraithdale Estate trustees following close behind. They had just gotten within earshot when Ursula finished her welcome of the Baron Landseer and turned to greet his younger brother.

At that moment, Regis, noticed the Wraithdale Trustees materialized out of the throng of guesta behind the Duchess of Kendal. Sir Leo was in the lead, flanked by Lady Penelope Wraithdale and Dame Daphne Cosgrave. Regis observed Duncan Foster, Sir Samuel Thistlewood, Alistair Scattergood and Philipa Fieldhouse followed close behind them. Foster was an accomplished and hardworking solicitor with graying, light brown hair, with a quiet, studious and methodical air to him. Gold spectacles topped his strong beak like nose, which along with his balding crown and long sideburns and muttonchops lent an inquisitive, scholarly air to him.

Thistlewood, was a craggy, hard featured man, dark haired and dark eyed with a short, bristling beard, who despite his great wealth as a businessman and investor and accomplishments as a serious inventor, engineer and scientist, never quite shed his working class origins nor had he ever tried. Thistlewood was the epitome of the hard working, serious but thoughtful self-made man, though without the arrogance of some of that bred. Regis also noted Thistlewood's heavily gloved hands, which covered the replacement mechanical appendages which replaced the fingers and wrists destroyed years ago by a few technological mishaps.

Scattergood, gave the impression to the casual observer of dandified elegance. While only of average height, he had a fit build and handsome, swarthy features framed by soft mouse brown grey hair and long sideburns with an almost permanently amused expression fixed on them. His grey eyes however were at this moment without their customary sardonic expression, they were alert, clear and watchful.

Fieldhouse, watched the unfolding scene with a disturbing almost reptile like calm, which was hardly surprising give her family background, Regis thought wryly. Philipa's father was an English born human but her Austrian mother had been a mix of human, Lemurian and Serpentine.Which was not as obvious as one would have thought, unless you knew what to look for. The dark glasses she habitually wore had slipped down slightly, revealing just a hint of her vivid yellow eyes with vertically slit black pupils. She had a strikingly olive completion which went with a willowy, lithe figure and equally exotic and strikingly beautiful facial features which were suggestive of her unusual li
neage.

"Lord Crossley, I do not believe you have made the acquaintance of Sir Thomas, before now?" Ursula asked suddenly with a decidedly mischievious expression playing upon her face. When Roderick, languidly if politely indicated that that was indeed the case. Ursula smiled even more disarmingly and then ushering Sir Thomas a pace or two forward so that he was standing directly beside her.

"Lord Crossley, allow me to introduce you to Sir Thomas Jameson, Captain of the Locke and Key Line, my fiance."

c96plusMauserpuppy

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YES!!! Steampunk is more than my Run N' Gun stories, too!  Well done, my friend, well done.

LordWorthing

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I started writing years ago, but not with any degree of seriousness. That changed a couple years ago, when I became involved on several online writing sites and got one or two pieces published in other people's projects. In particular I did a lot of story/alternative history writing for the Wesworld alternative history site, handling the nation of Lithuania and later France, for some years before increasing health problems (I suffer from several auto-immune disorders) caused me to put aside my extensive writing commitments. In 2016, that changes as I was out of work for a little over four months, and suddenly had a lot of time on my hands. I also became increasingly interested and involved in cosplay and various conventions from 2014 on wards. In particularly the persona of Sir Leo Stanley Worthing-Topper was born and I began jotting down notes to fill out the persona's background and develop my cosplaying attire. Hence, the An Age of Steam, Steel and Iron blog on blogspot was born and I've produced a small blizzard of posts, sometimes erratically, sometimes more consistently.

The majority of my work with A.A.S.S.I., concerns possibilities/what ifs with history and historical events. So I tend to concentrate largely on places, events and above all people both historical and fictional in my writing. My steampunk concept as tends to mix various "punk" ideas rather then sticking rigidly to a single interpretation of what something is supposed to be, so people will notice that various elements will appear within the background of my stories.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2021, 06:40:59 pm by LordWorthing »