(1310-10-02) The Gentle Art of Positive Reinforcement
Summary: Oriane is delighted to receive a young friend from Siovale, who was raised not so long ago to a new and interesting prominence…
RL Date: 02/10/2018 - 07/10/2018
Related: None.
oriane symon 

Salon — Maison de la Porte Bleue

Two square chambers are united by broad sliding doors of black-painted wood, creating a double cube lined with simple white boiseries and floored by squares of dark and light parquet in an echo of the marble downstairs.

The resulting combined salon is sparsely furnished with a few small chairs and tables light enough to be rearranged at will, their styles mismatched but harmonious, all of them painted white. In the rear chamber a single large sofa covered in deep sapphire-blue velvet is placed against the wall to the left as one enters it, across from the fireplace to the right.

The small balcony overlooking the Rue du Port, is echoed by a much larger one on the opposite side of the double cube, between the sofa and the hearth. Sliding doors, similar to those in the middle of the salon but set with diamond-shaped panes of leaded glass to let the light in, give onto a fragrant bower suspended amidst a magnificent view of the harbour. Small orange trees grow in pots, scenting the air with their sweetness; the blue wrought-iron railings are festooned with windowboxes planted with such useful household staples as rosemary, thyme, basil, sage, and lavender. And, for pleasure's sake, every white flower that might hope to thrive in the climate of Marsilikos has a place here, whether in a hanging basket or a pot moved inside at night. Overhead stretches a black and white striped canvas awning, the angle of which can be adjusted by lever to provide shade to plants and persons resting beneath it as the southern sun moves in its course.

For Symon de Perigeux (alias Symple Symon, alias Symon Who?), Oriane Somerville de Toluard is less the doyenne of the usurpers than the mistress of a fountain of fine Bordeaux wine which, till very lately, never ceased to flow in his direction. How many times since he arrived at something approximating a man's estate, has he drunk his fill at one of her celebrated fêtes and made friends with the albino peacocks on her terrace—? It would be a challenge to count so high even if he hadn't been agreeably sloshed the entire time. It probably never crossed his mind that he was unaccountably left off the guest lists for her more intimate gatherings, or that persons in her pay were forever lingering within earshot, doing their best to hear and to comprehend his every utterance.

Suffice it to say, then, that they are old friends from Siovale, and that no sooner does Symon hear of her presence in Marsilikos than he finds his way — after a certain amount of trial and error — to her high blue doors.

Her servants in Marsilikos all know the Perigeux heir by sight. Symon is shown upstairs as a matter of course, into a severely plain white salon with only a handful of little chairs lined up against the walls in case of visitors, and one tremendously blue sofa: an unusual setting for a woman he has always till now seen amidst a ducal splendour his own house lost long ago. Several small white tables are pushed together near the open balcony doors; Oriane sits there surrounded by the paraphernalia of an active correspondence, a lap desk and a tray of quills, a row of a dozen bottles of different coloured inks.

"Symon de Perigeux," the maidservant Madelon intones, tonelessly.

And Oriane, who the moment she heard the doorbell began her race to the end of a sentence, wins it and lays down her quill. "Why, Symon!" she exclaims fondly, turning over with a casual air two or three sheets of parchment. She is at least dressed as exquisitely as ever, in black silk with a white fichu filling in the neckline of her gown and a glittering diamond brooch in the shape of a crescent moon to fix the latter in place. She is very fond of crescent moons.

Against the chill air, Symon wore a cream-colored cloak embroidered with red autumn leaves, which perhaps the maid is bearing away now. He approaches Oriane with a warm smile. "How b-brave, for someone with exquisite taste in wine to keep a w…white salon," he comments in greeting. "It has been too long."

How long? As Oriane recalls Symon was among the horde of guests at the wedding of Margot Toluard, who then became the horde of witnesses to the bride's father's impalement through the eye with a lance during the celebratory tourney… She offers him her fingertips to be pressed; she smiles serenely. "I find it pleases me," she says of the salon, glancing about before her azure blue eyes return to Symon's face. "The simplicity of it. The grace. But tell me," she goes on, changing the subject as she waves him toward her blue sofa, "how are matters with you? I had supposed you must be burrowing in for a cosy winter at Château l'Évêque, rather than brightening the streets of Marsilikos."

Symon clasps the proffered fingers. "Yes, it w…would require more grace than I have," he replies, though in fact he is not particularly more clumsy than anyone else. In fact, in the right settings, and with exactly the right balance of drink, he can be graceful indeed. He sits down and laughs faintly. "No, I thought I'd rather escape the cosiness this year."

"You're too kind," says Oriane simply, giving Symon the credit for what she supposes to be another of his accidental compliments… On that note Madelon returns, bearing a mirror-bright silver tray laden with a decanter of red wine and a pair of the second-best crystal glasses. Yes, Oriane Somerville's hospitality remains a shining beacon unto a thirsty world.

"Have you settled here for the winter, then?" the lady inquires politely as that warm and breathing Bordeaux is poured out and provided to them both. "I understand the climate of Marsilikos is even milder than that in most of Siovale — the sea air, you know. The harbour is said never to freeze in the winter."

Symon looks delighted by the appearance of wine. Perhaps he'd started to worry that the past year's withdrawal from society had come along with abstention. "Hardly settled at all," Symon replies. "I just arrived this w…week. But a m-mild winter sounds just the thing. You m…must tell me where I should roost for the long term."

It dawns upon Oriane that House Perigeux no longer possesses a residence in the noble quarter of Marsilikos, and that she knows the reason why not: that large tract of desirable real estate was joined with another property purchased by the Toluards and the Rocailles, and split down the middle, the original house demolished and a pair of new ones built in what was then the latest style.

Inspiration strikes. "I must say I've found this part of the city very agreeable, these past weeks," she mentions, "and, do you know, there's a house not very many doors down the Rue du Port from where we sit, that has been converted into half a dozen charming little apartments. Les Tanières," she pronounces. "I believe there is a sort of foyer where people take tea and watch the world go by, and a large staff of servants so that one need not employ too many of one's own. I know the heir to the comte d'Avignon keeps rooms there; I have seen him go in and out."

Symon looks delighted to have an immediate and suitable suggestion from his trusted friend, and especially enchanted by this picture she paints of servants and tea-taking. "The comte d'Avignon," he repeats. "I don't b-believe we've b…been introduced."

One does after all require servants to make the tea. "A charming young man, I understand," adds Oriane temptingly; "I imagine an introduction would be easy enough to affect, though I don't know him well myself, you understand." She sips her wine and then lowers her glass with a degree of haste in order to exclaim, "Oh, I hope you don't mind Daisy." This, presumably, is the name of the tiny white kitten with the pale pink nose, presently climbing up Symon's leg.

One certainly does. Symon looks very pleased at the idea of attractive new digs /and/ charming new friends, but his smile only grows at the appearance of the little white kitten. He reaches down to lit it up to his lap. "W…what a p-precious creature," he says approvingly. "Did you get her to m…match?"

There are some points upon which the heir of House Perigeux and the grande dame of House Toluard can meet in all sincerity. "I have two," Oriane confesses, as though signing her name to a dreadful indiscretion; "I saw a basketful of them in the market one day and I couldn't resist… The other one is called Dahlia; she behaves rather better," as one would expect of that canon, "but sleeps rather more." Daisy meanwhile is squirming about looking for ribbons and/or lace and/or buttons to nibble. "They're the ruination of black gowns, of course," their proud, black-clad mother sighs, "but haven't they faces just like flowers—?"

"W-well, /I/ like /this/ one," Symon opines with certainty, gently extricating a cord from the kitten's mouth. "Oh, not the /ruination/," he replies. "Just some embellishment, eh?" He pushes a finger against the kitten's cheek.

A small but resonant 'meow' answers this impertinence; Oriane chuckles, and drinks a little more of her wine. Always helpful when dealing with Symon. Or when dealing with kittens, for that matter. "I recall you've always had the most marvelous creatures of your own," she muses. "Did you bring them with you?"

Symon chuckles and shakes his head slowly. "Nooo," he replies. "Impossible. Though I w…wonder if I could send for them. Of course, I never knew what to do w…with them in the first p-place, though I loved having them. Especially as a m…memento of a cherished friendship."

Oriane cocks her elegantly-dressed white head. "They might," she suggests, "prove difficult to care for at Les Tanières… Perhaps you were wise to leave them in a more comfortable and commodious home." She stands, and reaches out to relieve him of Daisy before the happy baby beast can chew through any part of his attire; she sets Daisy on the table amongst her writing things, which all seem to need a thorough sniffing by that exquisite little pink nose.

“The servants are already accustomed to them," Symon agrees, surrendering the little ball of white fluff but watching where she goes. "And I didn't even b-bring a man with me. B…by the way, if you know anyone who can recommend one…" Perhaps he means one who hasn't been hired by his parents.

"… I have my pastry chef here with me," says Oriane, again in her confessional mode, "Quintavius — a sort of Toluard cousin. I don't know if you know him at all, but you must know his desserts, no? Yes, I thought you might," and here she sounds a tad complacent, for it's no small thing to command the most delicate pastries in the south of Terre d’Ange. "Well," she goes on, "he has a positive gift for getting to know useful people in all sorts of places. Why don't I ask him if he knows a man who might wish to change his situation—?" she suggests. Of course this is pure altruism and has nothing at all to do with spying on House Perigeux. Why would you even think such a thing? Wash your mind out with soap.

Symon looks impressed by Oriane's kindness. "No really, that /is/ good of you," he says. "I'm at /such/ a loss here and, to be p-p-perfectly honest, I've never arranged m…my own servants before, so any help…" He sips his wine. "Is a b-blessing, really."

Daisy has found a stick of sealing wax; she bats it about experimentally. Oriane keeps an eye on her pretty baby's proximity to the ink-pots but this in no way diminishes her attentiveness to Symon and his woes.

"Well, of course. One doesn't expect a gentleman of your birth to interview house servants," she chuckles in a conspiratorial vein, "and to quiz them about their preferred manner of removing grease stains from shot silk, or how they'd go about re-attaching a torn piece of lace…" Her smile contrives to suggest that it would be absurd; that it's so much more fitting for Symon not to concern himself with such domestic minutiae. "But I'm accustomed to a household, you know, and it always gives me pleasure to help a friend when I can. Why don't I take charge, just this once," which treat for them both she proposes with a whimsical tilt of her head, "and send you someone on probation?"

Symon can't help a soft laugh in return: "I shouldn't know w…what to make of any answers they /did/ give," he confesses, body language showing he is drawn in by Oriane's tone. "I'm sure you know b…better. So I accept. Thank you." He does seem relieved to have that little matter sewn up.

"Then we're agreed." Oriane beams, rising with one hand already on the decanter. "More wine?" she suggests straight away, in case the benefits of acquiescence to her will aren't yet clear enough. She doesn't wait for an answer but pours with her customary generosity. "… Of course," she adds, flashing him a more teasing smile, "once you're married, your lady wife will see to these things for you." Hiring the servants or pouring the wine? Probably both.

"Oh, yes," Symon says, lifting his cup. He's never much one for discretion with wine. The topic of marriage seems a splash of cold water. He blinks. "Oh, right. I ah…I suppose I'll learn who the right girls are b…before long."

The splash of cold water is not, at least, diluting the wine. "Oh," sighs Oriane, sitting down again with another gracious rustle of silk, "have I put my foot in it? I have, haven't I?" She sighs, quite as though she didn't know what she was doing. "For a young man in your position it seemed the natural purpose," she says apologetically, "of a winter in Marsilikos… Why, where might one more conveniently seek to create a tie with another southern house—?"

Symon recovers his smile and nods. "I suppose it w…will have to be, eventually. B-but that leaves me the autumn to enjoy, doesn't it?" The smile sharpens, perhaps a gambit at re-focusing the topic under discussion.

"Yes," agrees Oriane brightly, as though Symon has just directed her attentive blue eyes to a point of considerable interest. "And so many new sights to see! Though I imagine once word gets about that you're in the city, the right girls will come calling and their mamans," she chuckles, half-getting up again from her chair to rescue Daisy from the imminent consequences of an encounter with a pot of red ink. She leans impulsively forward and attaches the kitten to Symon's knee. "You may come and hide here with me if you like," she offers, "and play with the kittens instead of the marriageable daughters."

Symon puts a hand on the curve of the kitten's rump. "It w…will be interesting who suddenly recalls m…my existence now." He sips wine from the glass in the free hand. "Not to say that I p…particularly object to daughters, you understand. Just…m-marriage is…really something, isn't it."

Oriane is all sympathy. She sighs, "Oh, it is." And after another sip she lowers her half-full glass to reveal what has suddenly become a distant, reminiscent smile. She might as well be looking past Symon and into a field of flowers. "I was more fortunate than most," she confesses in a low voice, "though of course that was rather before your time…" She sighs again, and shakes her head at herself. "You know, I do think it wise of you not to wish to rush such an important decision. There's so much to consider."

Symon puts a finger against the kitten's cheek, wiggling gently. "Of course, w…whether it w…will be m-my decision at all is something of a question…" He lifts and eyebrow. "I suppose it's the rare heir who m…makes such a decision."

"I hope it's a rare young person altogether," says Oriane seriously, "who makes such a decision himself, without the advice of relations and friends who know the world. But even an heir," she smiles upon young man and kitten alike, "has a voice in the arrangement of his marriage. You will too, my dear."

Symon's eyes swivel to one side and he smiles ruefully. "Mm," he murmurs while considering the probability of that. "P…perhaps that could be true. Now."

"You have more leverage than you know," is Oriane's opinion. "All that remains is for you to learn how best to apply it. More wine?" she suggests again; and, having sown her seeds, she directs the conversation then into gossip about the nobility of Marsilikos and what parties they might be suspected of holding as the days draw in and the nights grow long.

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