(1311-07-13) Not Just Ornamental, But Useful
Summary: Tea and cakes and nasturtiums are on the menu in Iphigénie’s garden, when she invites Philomène to discuss a pressing botanical matter…
RL Date: 06/07/2019 - 13/07/2019
Related: Cultivation, and Difficult To Place.
iphigenie philomene 

Garden — Maignard Residence

The garden is girded by a high wall of plain grey stone, lined with trellises which climbing roses and honeysuckle are being trained in the strictest Kusheline style to ascend. It is chiefly laid out as a parterre in which beds of colourful flowers are separated by low, angular, meticulous box hedges and raked pathways of dark gravel, about a bronze fountain celebrating a Maignard ancestor.

The spreading canopy of a mature elm tree provides shade over a small lawn and its own more haphazard growth of bluebells, crocus, borage, and nasturtiums, arisen during years of neglect, kept because of their great interest to the plethora of bees whose buzzing sets the air aquiver as they partake of their floral feast. Their home is a neat stack of wooden hives in the far corner beyond the elm, amongst bushes of lavender and fennel, rosemary and sage.

Spaced along the house's rear façade three sets of heavy dark doors lead into chambers well-lit by mullioned windows of thick, distorted glass.

The letter that comes for Philomène Aiglemort de Chalasse is brief and to the point, a mercy given the dreadful penmanship. Would she care to take tea with Iphigénie Maignard? Two possible afternoons are suggested, in the hope that one of them will prove convenient to her.

The course it takes is less brief, given that it arrives first at the Chalasse residence and moulders there for a couple of days before being sent on to the Maison aux Herbes in the Rue du Port; and by then the first of the named afternoons has rolled round, bright and fair.

The house kept by the Maignard family for their visits to Marsilikos is the smallest of the half-dozen imposing structures along the Avenue de Kusheth. Behind its grey stone wall it is all of a piece, straight lines and sharp gables and high mullioned windows, a fine example of an architectural style never popular in Eisande even before it fell out of fashion a century ago or more. A dour-faced, black-garbed servant meets Philomène at the door and conducts her through three large square chambers in succession, past dark wood, tarnished gilt, scenes from the lives of Blessed Elua and his Companions, and a great deal of scaffolding occupied by assiduous workmen. A hammer and a chisel provide uneven accompaniment to the equally off-kilter echoes generated by her limping gait. There’s no furniture to be seen but a couple of velvet-upholstered chairs clustered self-consciously in the foyer, and little light in the central chamber but the lamps the men are working by; the third brightens perceptibly, and then heavy oaken doors are unbarred for her and she is ushered out into a nearly-kempt garden.

In the shade beneath the elm tree’s spreading branches a table has been set out and laid for afternoon tea, surrounded by a small sofa and several chairs upholstered in smoke-blue velvet, from the same set as those orphaned ones in the foyer. Iphigénie is seated there in a plain gown rather like the one she had on the other day— though it is not as it may first appear black, but a red far deeper and darker than wine. It’s very quiet, but for the buzz of the bees. The main doors have a creak in them and as they open she looks up from a small book, and lays it aside to greet her visitor with a warm and tranquil smile which lasts till Philomène has come near enough across the flower-strewn lawn for the two of them to speak comfortably.

“Vicomtesse, how glad I am that you came. Won’t you sit?” she suggests genially. Then, to the maid who has followed Philomène to the table, a calm command: “More hot water.”

This being a more formal invitation, Philomene has eschewed her usual worn jacket today in favour of her newer, smarter combination of ivory waistcoat and dark green frock coat, both crusted with elaborate, neat embroidery. Yes. Also breeches and her usual boots, although these too are polished to a shine and the spurs on the back gleam in the sunlight. In deference to the heat, however, the frock coat remains unbuttoned and the moment she's inside the grounds of the Maignard house, her hat has come off and is tucked under her arm, only the faint moisture at the locks of hair on her forehead giving any clue she ever wore it.

"Vicomtesse," comes the appropriate reply, along with a small dip of her head. There is a moment's hesitation as she eyes the chair, a flicker of something on her face and a tightening of her jaw, but then she accedes with a careful mask of a pleasant smile, fixing that in place as she settles down. All in all a far more formal appearance and behaviour than their previous meeting, but then when a lady is invited to call on another one really ought to at least give a nod to protocol. "You have a lovely house," she adds, but without really thinking. It's just words. Words that are expected of her and so are stated. That out of the way, though, she cracks a more genuine smile and extends a hand around her, "And a truly lovely garden."

Naturally Philomène’s hat has been taken and deposited somewhere suitable; when she deposits herself likewise, Iphigénie immediately reaches for an empty cup and saucer and begins to pour. “Thank you. It is my niece’s, of course— she is the present comtesse de Maignard,” she clarifies, though in all likelihood anyone addressing her correctly, anyone who has looked her up in the peerage the better to decide what to wear when visiting her, must know that. “But I hope I shall prove a better caretaker than the local people ostensibly fulfilling that office till I arrived, who for their inattention to duty ought to have been horsewhipped through the streets.” A philosophical shrug. “How do you take it?” she inquires, of the tea.

"Black, no honey," Philomene demands succinctly, even with the bees making their presence known so close by. Rather more used to giving commands than making polite conversation, there's a small gap, then the expected, "if you please, my lady."

She does give a wry smirk to the suggestion for local gardeners. "Eisandine people are not renowned for their green fingers. I can count on one hand the number of people here who would understand the importance of soil type and prevailing wind on the plants grown. Is your interest more in the aesthetic or the scientific, though, for your garden?"

Iphigénie’s inquiring gaze cools a tad as it rests upon Philomène’s face — she sits poised, the blue and white Chi’in porcelain teapot in her right hand and the fingertips of her left delicately securing its lid against mishap — then courteous words follow curt ones, and she pours another drop of tea in lieu of the milk and honey her visitor disdains and sets down the pot.

She offers Philomene her cup and saucer with both hands. Ungloved, they are long-fingered and white, with short, clean nails. Well-kept but not frivolously so. Her only ring is a narrow braided silver band on the third finger of her left hand. “As far as I’ve been able to discern, our Eisandine people forgot there was a garden behind the house at all,” she confides drily. “In lieu of the horsewhipping I’m taking them to law to recover the last five years of their wages — but I do admire the happy accident of this flowered lawn. My interest, you see, is in what will please my bees,” she explains as she replenishes her own cup, “and produce for me a fine and flavourful honey.” A modest quantity of which she then begins to stir into her tea.

Philomene does at least have the good grace to murmur a thank you for her tea, which she rests on her right knee, waiting for it to cool without the addition of milk. The right knee for two good reasons. One, that the left can sometimes spasm, and that would certainly both bring attention to it and worse yet spill the tea, and two, that she's spotted a smudge of dirt on the right from kneeling for something and the saucer covers it nicely.

"I'll admit I'm not familiar with the flowers there," she nods in the direction of the lawn. "If you can't eat it or sell it or make it into something useful, my botanical knowledge is less than complete. Although if the bees make it into something useful then perhaps I really ought to know. The blue flower is borage, the rest…? Perhaps you can enlighten me?"

The concept of taking the staff to court over their neglect is apparently eminently sensible and only garners an approving nod. After all, it's what she'd do to a tenant who didn't keep their part of her lands cultivated.

“But my bees are very useful,” their keeper declares, setting her silver spoon in her saucer and raising her cup to taste the tea sweetened by their efforts. “They make honey, of course; their wax becomes the finest candles, and an excellent salve for dry skin; and then, my lady Chalasse, what honey we don’t eat we ferment into mead.” An argument calculated to appeal to a woman whose coat pocket suggests even now the outline of a copper flask. “I try to feed them a broad diet of the flowers they like and I like, for I’ll be tasting it in turn… The blue flowers are bluebells, of course,” and, casting her gaze about the lawn, she nods. “The pale purple are crocuses — you had better not nibble at those. The red and yellow and orange, though, those are nasturtiums. Take one of those leaves, that are almost circular and very green,” she suggests, “and bite into it. You may find it an appealing taste, if you don’t care for sweets.” Returning to Philomène’s face her eyes glint, likewise very green.

The mention of mead certainly does perk the younger woman up and she carefully sets her tea on the arm of her chair so she can ease herself upwards and limp over to the flowers in question. It's rather awkward the way she kneels, bending the right knee but letting her left leg stick out to one side, but it's enough (even with that disguised wince of pain) to get her low enough to pluck a leaf as directed. Regaining her feet is likewise an inelegant manoeuvre, but she manages it after a moment and, rather than immediately returning to her seat, examines the leaf in her hand and takes a little nibble of the edge.

"Rather like one of the salads my maid used to make," she muses, conveniently forgetting for the moment that Brigitte was never her maid. "With a little blue cheese, grape and walnut. Delicious."

From her side of the table Iphigénie watches impassively as she sips her tea. Dappled sunlight filters through the elm tree’s canopy, brightening her white hair and setting her silver jewellery sporadically agleam. “Yes,” she agrees, “I take a few leaves sometimes to put in a salad — they’re piquant, don’t you find? … But whilst we are speaking of useful plants — I did,” she grants softly, “make a trial of your hemp leaves, my lady Chalasse.”

Philomene carefully folds the rest of the leaf in her hand, raising a brow at the seated woman as she glances over at her. "Did you find them of use, my lady? It's not for everyone, and, as I said, it's not a sudden blast of euphoria but…" She shrugs, popping the leaf into her mouth to chew. "I find it can take the edge off."

“At first I felt nothing,” Iphigénie admits, one corner of her painted mouth ruefully lifting; “but by degrees it eased me enough to sleep… which, that night, was a great blessing and sorely needed.” She pauses. “I felt no ill effects the next day, which is hardly something one can say of the poppy. And so, my lady, I wonder whether you might advise me upon how to obtain a cutting of it for my garden here…? I hesitate to ask the Rose Sauvage when as I gather their own plants are only a recent addition, by your hand, and not yet mature.”

Philomene rubs her fingers together as though the leaf has left some sort of residue, then gives in and wipes her hand on her breeches instead as she considers the request. "I could," she drawls with slow deliberation, "obtain a cutting from our plants at home next time I return to Gueret." Something about that thought has her lips pursing and she makes a noncommittal noise as she turns and moves to resume her seat and her by now cool tea. She takes up the cup for a long sip, interested in the way the liquid swirls in her cup afterwards before her shoulders go back and she looks the other woman in the eye. "I'm not yet certain when that will be, but I'm sure it won't be too long. No more than a few months. Would that suffice?"

<FS3> Iphigénie rolls Perception: Great Success. (1 8 3 7 1 6 5 7 4 1 8 3 4 5)

Across the table those too-knowing, too-green Kusheline eyes are waiting when Philomène’s lift again to meet them. “I should not like to make a duty any more arduous than it need be,” Iphigénie says very quietly, “and for no end greater than my own comfort.”

Then, in a firmer and more deliberate tone: “Perhaps I might write to someone in your part of the country, to inquire about the plant…? How common is it, do you suppose?”

Philomene gives a half smile, shaking her head. "If you can wait, I think I would rather enjoy taking an hour to tend to the plants and bring you some back. A relief from duty, rather than an addition, I think?"

She takes another sip of her tea, adding more practically, tone more brusque, "Of course if you can't wait then I can send word to my daughter or her steward and see if we can have some sent down. I'm not sure I know anyone else locally who cultivates this particular strain. It's less use for ropes," she explains. "The fibres are less strong."

Still studying her visitor Iphigénie takes another sip of her tea and then sets it down.

“Try one of these,” she advises, unwrapping the linen cloth that has kept a selection of cakes and pastries cosy in a basket till now. With a fork and a fingertip she transfers a tiny cake to the empty plate in front of Philomène: round and dark, no more than two or three bitefuls, not sugared or iced. “I don’t know if I can wait,” she adds conversationally during this procedure, which she encores by taking another of the same cakes for herself. “The most difficult moments are not always predictable, though of course I know quite well that sometimes I bring them upon myself by doing too much,” she acknowledges with arid self-knowledge.

“But I have a little left yet — a few breaths of it,” she says briskly as she cuts her tiny cake in half and in half again, creating four morsels; “and so I am not in extremis, my lady, and I should be grateful for whatever you might offer me, whenever it might come to pass. I’ve lost, after all, nothing that I had before this week,” she points out, to do justice to the gift.

The cake’s first taste is sweet— an instant later about seven different spices compete for the attention of one’s palate, rich and hot and reminiscent of strong mulled wine.

Rather than cut her cake, Philomene breaks off an edge, shaking off the crumbs and holding it in her hand as she listens. "I don't yet know when I'll be required in Gueret," she admits guardedly, the words slow and deliberate. "If it is not within the month, I shall write to Eleanor. Would that be a reasonable compromise, do you think?"

She absently taps the piece of cake with her ring finger to clear any remaining crumbs, then takes a polite bite. This is washed down with tea soon after.

<FS3> Iphigénie rolls Perception: Great Success. (1 1 3 2 3 7 6 7 7 3 8 1 3 7)

If Philomène should take tea here again she’ll be offered sandwiches, rather than cakes; that, at least, Iphigénie has deduced from all this business with crumbs. “Most reasonable, vicomtesse,” she agrees smoothly; “and now we must try to think of what I might offer you in return. I gather,” she favours her visitor with a rueful smile, “I cannot tempt you with honey.”

"Perhaps," Philomene suggests as she breaks off another piece of cake to make more mess, holding it out over the arm of her chair as she leans forward to speak. "Perhaps we might come to a similar arrangement to that I have with the Rose Sauvage. Might I, on occasion, walk here, and then I should be able to keep an eye on your cutting, too? I would quite understand if you'd rather keep your garden private, of course, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to find somewhere isolated to walk in the city as the weather improves."

There’s something all too Kusheline and knowing about the way Iphigénie, looking into Philomène’s eyes, breathes out an, “Ah,” that is at once echoed by the clink of her teacup settling into its saucer. “So that is the nature,” she murmurs lightly, “of your arrangement with the Rose Sauvage.” She pauses. “I would not be opposed to your taking exercise here, my lady, provided you remove no flowers when you go — but might it not be convenient to appoint a regular day and an hour?” She cocks her head in question. “Then you might be certain of your privacy, and so might I.” A wry smile hints at goings-on here as well.

More of the cake is subtly crumbled away over the flowerbeds and Philomene nods. "If it would be inconvenient then I'm sure we might suggest something else," she allows. "Perhaps if I send word ahead of time, to ensure you're not… engaged, but otherwise perhaps every Tuesday morning…? At eight?"

“I’m sure that would be entirely convenient,” agrees Iphigénie, with a dip of her sharp chin to seal their compact; “at eight o’clock in the morning I am rarely engaged with anything other than my breakfast,” she confides drily. And then she turns to watch her maid crossing the grass toward them, carrying a small kettle with steam pouring from its spout. “At last,” she murmurs to Philomène, sidelong and in an undertone even more arid, as she removes the lid from her teapot and restores to it a silver infuser full of wet tea-leaves from another brew not long ago.

“I hope you don’t mind,” she remarks to her visitor, pro forma, with no intention of diverting from her accustomed course, “but this variety stands up so well to a second infusion, that it seems sheer waste to call for fresh leaves as well as fresh water…” Which the maid pours, with a murmured apology to milady for the fire having gone out in the kitchens.

Philomene does not make any comment about the need for horsewhipping, but she does fix the maid with one of her more unsettling stares. It's intended as accusatory, but this is Philomene d'Aiglemort de Chalasse so it naturally comes off as more predatory.

She lifts her tea to her lips to make room for more when the new pot has brewed, noting casually, "I shouldn't want to interrupt your breakfast, my lady. Perhaps seven or six might be less likely to intrude? I rarely sleep for long as the days get longer," she adds, as though sleep is some sort of unnecessary inconvenience anyway.

But Iphigénie is nodding sympathy rather than agreement. “I usually rise at five or so,” she admits, “to work and to pray, before the rest of the world is awake and issuing demands. An old habit from when I had a houseful of children and dogs and servants — I gather you’ve acquired the same, my lady,” she speculates, though it isn’t quite a question.

The maid is naturally more concerned with her mistress’s attitude, though departing with the kettle and an unwanted plate Iphigénie nudges toward her across the table she catches a sudden glimpse of Philomène’s face and her shoulders tense in answer. Iphigénie’s gaze follows her for a few steps across the flowered lawn and then glides back to Philomène. “It is unlikely to have been her fault,” she judges softly, “though later on I shall find out… But you won’t interrupt me at seven or eight, on a Tuesday, when I expect you.”

"Less about the children and dogs and servants," Philomene notes with a half smile, "and more the vagaries of overseeing agricultural lands. In the city, the world seems to wake about noon and give itself over to indulgence at night. In the country we follow the sun, work through the day, and use the night for sleeping."

She takes another sip from her tea, considering. "Until your cutting is available," she muses, letting the words roll around in her head before she speaks for once in her life, "there may be some to be had from the Rose Sauvage. Some leaves, I mean. I tend to take them, dry them and return most - it is my way to show some gratitude for their kindness - but you might ask them or pay them for a few leaves as required? I keep one or two for myself, but I don't think enough to be able to sell on to you, and I'd certainly feel a fraud if I kept more for mercantile purposes." She glances up at the other woman, earnestly intending to impress on her that it's not her fault she can't just share.

<FS3> Iphigénie rolls Perception: Good Success. (8 1 6 3 6 2 6 8 4 6 3 1 8 3)

“It’s practical to make the use of the natural light,” agrees Iphigénie of that agricultural rhythm, “and I had rather use my beeswax for salving skin and polishing floors, than burn it up.”

She smiles at her guest, though when she speaks again her tone is likewise earnest and she seems to regard Philomène’s moral quandary as a serious matter. “Of course, you must do nothing to compromise the sincerity of your gift. If I find myself in true need, I’ll speak with the salon myself— the health of their patrons is no unfitting concern, I think.”

Just then, a bee that has been hovering about the table, lured by the scents of pastries and cakes and the pot of honey standing ready to sweeten at least Iphigénie’s tea, chances to land upon the back of her hand. The tickle alerts her and she glances down, her faint smile deepening as she watches the tiny striped creature’s progress across her skin.

Philomene watches the bee, alert and ready to swat it out of the way if it deigns to try to sample her tea but leans back in her seat with some bemusement when Iphigénie seems so unworried by the creature.

"You've kept bees for long?" she can't help but ask, curious. "It's an unusual hobby for a lady, but I don't doubt very useful. Perhaps it's the usefulness that makes it so rare for a noble. We're not expected to do anything useful, you know. Merely to look pretty all day and spend all night getting our rocks off. We're supposed to have tenants who do the actual work, you know."

At the question, Iphigénie glances up from her little friend. Her lips curve slightly and she nods at Philomène’s succinct description of the pastimes of so many of their caste. “For some years now, yes. I find them soothing company,” she admits, speaking softly and remaining still for the bee’s convenience as it explores the surface of her hand.

“There is an old custom, perhaps only in Kusheth. The telling of the bees. One informs them of every important event in the household, births and marriages and so forth — if there is a death one invites them to the funeral,” she explains seriously, “or if the beekeeper should pass away the hive is draped in black cloth and offerings are set out beside it from the funeral feast. If one is remiss in such duties it’s said the colony will cease to make honey, or else fly away… But most beekeepers don’t leave it at that, you understand. We tell them all the latest gossip,” she reveals, “and all our little thoughts about this and that. They listen better than most people do,” she points out drily, “and the hum of a contented hive is answer enough.”

"I suspect," Philomene notes drily, "that a cheese sandwich might listen better than most people, but I do take your point. And a bee isn't going to judge you, or pity you, or tell the world what you've confided in secret…" She flicks an almost wistful smile. "Perhaps we should diversify into bees as well as pigs. The pigs tend only to listen if you've a pail of food for them." She pauses, considering, and then as though a revelation mentions, "Rather like people, now I come to think of it."

The comparison doesn’t strike Iphigénie as wholly unjust.

“The difference perhaps is in the strength of their hunger,” she suggests, “and what they would feed upon… Of course when you come to walk, you’re welcome to pay a call upon my bee colony if you wish it. Or,” she admits in justice, “if they decide not to welcome you, you’ll be in no doubt of it. They don’t bother me now that we are acquainted with one another but I have had,” and her gaze lifts to follow the bee as it alights from her hand and seeks other diversions, “some small difficulty in keeping gardeners. I’d hoped to have the parterre in order by now.”

"Insects rarely bother me," Philomene muses. "I'm not sure if they see me as one of their own, or if there's a more physiological answer. They tend to go for the sweet foods, and I'm really neither."

The bee circles lazily through the warm air toward the parterre garden, followed for a time by Iphigénie’s curious green eyes before they turn again upon Philomène.

“I’ve a sweet tooth, sometimes,” she concedes, sitting at her table laden with pastries and tiny spiced cakes and honey to sweeten her tea, “and so I shall bear that in mind, my lady Chalasse, and not sink my teeth in unduly.” That idea seems to entertain her; but straight away she has another. “You’ve taken up residence in Marsilikos, then? For how long, if I may ask?”

Philomene takes up her tea, having managed somehow to give the impression of having demolished at least a good part of the cake offered, mostly by leaving plenty of crumbs on the plate. “I’m not entirely certain,” she confides, running her tongue over her teeth before taking a sip from the cup. “In theory I’m here to see if I can find a suitable match for my middle daughter, and to keep an eye on our trade interests. Raise new routes, arrange new deals, ensure nothing’s going astray, that sort of thing. I imagine I’ll return to Gueret more permanently at some point in the future, but I’m a damn sight more use here than there right now. Eleanor has the lands under control… until she decides it’s time to squeeze out another grandchild, at which point I will be pressed upon to return to my duties there, I don’t doubt.”

She shrugs. “I’ve taken a house here, the weather agrees with me, and I’m happy to continue to arrange our trade from a centre of trade instead of a parochial backwater. I’m under no misapprehension that this is a permanent residence here, but I’ve no intention to return to Gueret any time soon unless something goes hideously wrong.” She pauses, pursing her lips. “Well, apart from the necessary visits, you understand.”

“Yes,” agrees Iphigénie, “Marsilikos is convenient for a great many purposes…” She pauses. “I came to Eisande thinking to spend a season here, or a year — but the change in my health has been so pronounced that I consider myself permanently settled, now. Kusheth is always in my heart,” she grants, in a spirit of candour to match Philomène’s own, “but there is little sense in living in a land one loves if the climate keeps one forever confined to one’s chamber.” She shrugs her thin, sloping shoulders and reclaims her cup of tea. “My son is a capable vicomte, his wife appears content with the family she has borne already—” She sips. “I have no pressing duties at home, nor any taste to consult but my own and my consort’s.” Though somehow despite her composure, the level tone of her voice, and the smile which accompanies it, that quiet statement of a dowager’s independence sounds more bitter than sweet.

"It's a marvellous existence," Philomene lies, pausing to sip from her tea and shoot the other woman an almost conspiratorial look, "when one's duties are taken up by one's children and we are left to do as we will."

She sets her tea down in its saucer, balances that on the edge of her chair, then sets her jaw for a second and hoists herself upright. "Your consort is with you, at least?" she queries. Having risen, she begins to pace slowly, hands folding behind her back and her gait all the more pronounced for having been sat in an unfamiliar chair. "And you've a quest to find a new gardener, or am I mistaken? I'm in the market for some staff so if I come across a young man or women with any sort of talent and an appreciation for bees should I send them your way?"

<FS3> Iphigénie rolls Perception: Great Success. (7 1 6 7 5 4 5 7 5 8 5 2 2 5)

Again, Iphigénie voices her agreement. “Marvelous,” she says; and she returns that look with a wry smile and infinite understanding as her eyes track Philomène’s restless motion.

She sips her tea once more and then puts it down, and clasps her hands peacefully in her lap. “My consort is my newest gardener, in fact,” she confides. “He found that he likes the work; and if once in a while he pulls out the wrong plant, at least he has lived with me long enough that he doesn’t quarrel with my bees. But if you did come across a suitable young person, my lady, I should be grateful for the introduction. He isn’t always here in Marsilikos and once we’ve restored order to the parterre it will still require a deal of maintenance.”

“Ah, the best of both worlds,” Philomene insists with a half smirk, turning on her heel and pacing back in the other direction. “Not just ornamental, but useful.” The garden? The bees? The consort? Seems likely. “That’s a rare enough thing to find in anyone. I tend to find that either people are skilled, but I feel the urge to punch them in the face, or they’re pleasant but useless.”

“I regret you’ve been unfortunate in your acquaintance,” offers Iphigénie, after a moment’s consideration of which pigeonhole she might have been assigned to; “but perhaps in Marsilikos your circles will broaden more agreeably over time—? In a city of such size one isn’t only running into the same neighbours, at the same dinner-parties,” she suggests with a measured touch of sympathy. “Would you care for more tea, vicomtesse?”

"Thank you but I won't," Philomene decides, dipping her head towards her hostess. "Although I very much appreciate the offer, I've a mare who hasn't had her exercise today and she's very much a creature of habit." Sure. It's the horse's schedule. "I shall keep you updated, however, on when I am likely to return to Gueret next so I can obtain your cutting, and perhaps see if I can find anything else your bees would enjoy in the meantime. You've been very kind to invite me here today, my lady."

“No, no. The gratitude is mine, my lady, for your consideration in the matter of the cutting, We’ll expect to see you on Tuesday morning. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t see you out— my stick doesn’t appear to have come into the garden with me,” Iphigénie confides, gesturing to its absence and giving Philomène a philosophical smile, as if to say: you understand.

"I shall send word of warning," Philomene promises with a hint of amusement, dipping her head once more before striding off. Though the moment she's in sight of anyone other than Iphigénie, she reins in her limp even at the cost of shortening her paces.

Only when the Chalasse lady has effected her transformation for the servants’ eyes and vanished into the house in Nadège’s custody, does Iphigénie notice the hat left behind in the chair which stood between them. She picks it up and turns it over in her hands, unsure yet whether to name it a mishap or a ploy. Perhaps Tuesday will tell.

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